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When the dust settles, who will the Crusaders have left?

By Ned Lester
Codie Taylor, Sevu Reece and Scott Barrett of the Crusaders. Photos by Joe Allison/Getty Images, Hannah Peters/Getty Images and Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images.

While headline departures have steered the narrative around the Crusaders’ falloff thus far, it appears there are chapters yet to be written in this tale.

Some elite succession planning consistently fed Scott Robertson’s dynastic run over the past seven years, but that luxury looks to be making way for a more traditional rebuild of rostered talent, something heightened by recent reports.

Of course, the promotion of Scott Robertson to All Blacks head coach along with some of his most successful Crusaders assistants has left the club with some almighty shoes to fill off the pitch, while on the green stuff, the absences of Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo’unga and Leicester Faina’anuku continue to prove difficult to overcome.

Over the past couple of weeks, the names of two more All Blacks and the future of the Crusaders’ No. 10 jersey have also appeared in reports suggesting their days in a red and black jersey are numbered.

RugbyPass revealed dynamic winger and perhaps the team’s best player so far this season, Sevu Reece, has been in talks with Montpellier in France and could be Europe-bound by the end of the year.

RugbyPass also reported that flyhalf Fergus Burke is in advanced talks with Saracens and may well join the Gallagher Premiership powerhouse before 2025 comes to pass.

85-Test hooker Codie Taylor’s contract ends in 2025 and he was spotted in Japan recently, reportedly having talks with Toshiba Brave Lupus where he could join Mo’unga in Rugby League One.

With such big names likely on their way out the door, the Crusaders’ future becomes a little clearer; younger, and clearer.

But is that all? Would those departures draw the curtain closed on this fabled exodus, leaving a sizeable core of champions to raise the incoming Crusaders talent?

Well, one thing those three potential departures do tell us – as well as Mo’una and Fainga’anuku’s – is that the Crusaders jersey may not carry the same weight in appeal as it did with their generational coach at the helm.

Sam Whitelock was among a number of Crusaders who openly claimed playing for the Crusaders meant more to him than playing for the All Blacks – a statement that shouldn’t be seen as undermining the black jersey, but as an endorsement of the culture and connection Robertson fostered at the club.

There are several players who may feel it’s time for a change given the revised Super Rugby landscape and what may end up being a new direction at the international level too.

Joe Moody, 35, will see his contract end this year and given his blunt, disappointed response to missing Rugby World Cup selection last year, may be ready to make some money offshore.

Mitch Drummond, 30, could also find himself a tastier contract in Japan once his contract is concluded later this year.

David Havili, 29, is signed until 2025, but is facing increased pressure in the midfield from Dallas McLeod, having already lost his spot in the All Blacks to Jordie Barrett; not the most ideal situation for him to want to re-sign.

George Bower, 31, will also be off contract at the end of 2025. Halfback Willi Heinz is 37.

It’s the circle of sporting life having these players leave, and at this point, it may be considered necessary.

Related

There must be a concern that the team have been caught in denial over the significance of their recent departures, and find themselves in an awkward hangover with the internal expectations to continue the success of recent years while adopting new personnel and IP.

However, we’ve seen this movie before, and two is the magic number.

In 2015, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter were wrapping up two of the greatest Super Rugby careers in the competition’s history.

McCaw, a four-time Super Rugby champion, was inevitably seen as irreplaceable and his status as a rugby icon and All Blacks captain was a generational loss for the team.

Similarly, the loss of Carter, a man synonymous with excelling under pressure, was projected to put the team in a hugely vulnerable position in those late-game situations moving forward.

Those concerns would quickly be rendered unwarranted as the Crusaders won the 2017 title, two years later.

Just two years were needed to kickstart a new dynasty, inspired by a new coach and new talent.

Two years from now, the Crusaders may well have moved on from the aforementioned players, be in a brand-new stadium, Rob Penney’s contract will have expired – if he makes it that far – making way for Robertson’s prodigy in Tamati Ellison, and a new batch of talent – who recently claimed the U20 Super Rugby crown – will be filtering in.

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but don’t tell the Crusaders.

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1 Comment
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Bruce 113 days ago

Don’t worry about the Crusaders they have some great talent coming through.

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