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‘Tough times ahead’: Fans react to Crusaders’ loss to the Fijian Drua

By Finn Morton
Sevu Reece of the Crusaders runs with the ball during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and Crusaders at Churchill Park, on March 9, 2024, in Lautoka, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

For the first time since 1996, which was the inaugural Super Rugby season, the Crusaders have started a campaign with three losses from as many starts after falling to the Fijian Drua.

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The Crusaders, who won seven Super Rugby titles in as many years under former coach Scott Robertson, are the first team to reach three losses this season as well.

Without the likes of Richie Mo’unga to steer the team around the park or Leicester Fainga’anuku to break the game open down the wing, the defending champions look a lot different.

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Three different halfbacks have worn the No. 9 jersey across the opening few rounds and there has also been some rotation at fly-half between the likes of Rivez Reihana and Taha Kemara.

Under new coach Rob Penney, the Crusaders showed some fight in their opening-round defeat to the Chiefs in Hamilton, but the more recent losses to the Waratahs and Drua are historic.

Fans on social media have expressed both their support and worry for their rugby heroes after Saturday afternoon’s 20-10 defeat to the Fijian Drua at Churchill Park.

“So the Drua said ‘the match is gonna be played like this’ and we had no idea which way was up,” one commenter wrote on the Crusaders’ Facebook post. “Congrats Drua, love your energy and enthusiasm (and your fans!).”

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“Only saw the 2nd half but the Drua seemed to thoroughly deserve the win,” another supporter wrote. “No complaints completely outplayed. Quite a slump we’re in now.”

“Wow!! Totally different team from last year,” a third fan wrote after full-time. Agreement for the young ones to get the experience, but at least make it competitive!!”

While giving credit to the Drua, other supporters were quite optimistic about the Crusaders’ season with another fan saying: “We will rise up again.”

But only time will tell.

The Crusaders actually started quite well against the Drua with wing Sevu Reece crossing for the opening try of the afternoon in the 18th minute.

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Reece linked up with marquee recruit Levi Aumua to break through the Drua’s defensive line, before running in without too many issues to extend the visitors’ lead.

After the conversion, the Crusaders held a 10-0 advantage. But it was all the Drua from there.

Much to the delight of the home crowd, the Fijians scored 20 unanswered points as they held on for a famous win over the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions in Lautoka.

It’s their second win over the Crusaders at the Fiji venue in as many years.

“We just didn’t execute,” captain Scott Barrett said on the broadcast after the 10-point defeat.

“We had multiple opportunities down there, particularly around our lineout and we just weren’t sharp and clinical like we’d hoped.”

The Crusaders were mathematically in the fight until basically the end of the contest. It wasn’t until an Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula penalty in the 78th minute that sealed their fate.

But while they were in with a chance, the defending champions couldn’t quite get over the line as they looked to level the scores during the second term.

“We were clear on our game plan. It was pretty simple and we just didn’t execute,” Barrett added.

“Greasy ball, little opportunities and you give the Fijian Drua a sniff and they’ll really punish you.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Crusaders. After starting their season with three defeats, the Christchurch-based franchise will host New Zealand rivals the Hurricanes next Friday.

If they don’t win that, it just gets tougher with the Crusaders set to travel north to Auckland to face the red-hot Blues in Round Five.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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