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Why the Crusaders still deserve to be SR favourites despite shock loss

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

You’ve probably heard it before and you’ll hear it again: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The sports adage is used by fans and pundits during the early stages of competitions around the world.


Following a scintillating opening round of Super Rugby Pacific, supporters can’t shy away from this reality.

Defending champions the Crusaders were sensationally overthrown by the Chiefs in front of their home fans on Friday, losing 31-10 at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.

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When the full-time siren sounded, I’m sure the cheers of victory were heard all the way from Hamilton. It was just that type of night for Chiefs fans – it was historic.

The Chiefs’ 21-point drubbing of the champion Crusaders shocked New Zealand – really, it shocked the world – as it flipped the Super Rugby power rankings on its head.

Or did it?

While the Crusaders were clearly dejected following the shock defeat, it’s far too soon to write them off.

When teams win, expectations are met and the bar is raised even higher. Fans dare to dream over the course of a season, as their passion and vibrance is fuelled by the taste of sweet, sweet victory.


But Super Rugby fans need to wake up and smell the roses; this is the Crusaders we’re talking about.

The Crusaders have won six titles in as many years under Scott Robertson, and showed no signs of slowing down during last year’s 21-7 win over the Blues in the Final.

If winning is a habit then one loss can’t define a team, especially a team like the Crusaders.

Championship teams aren’t crowned after the opening round of a season, no matter how impressive or eye-catching their display.

The same can be said about the unwanted race for the wooden spoon, or casting aside a great team as nothing more than a mere pretender.

When the Crusaders won their first Super Rugby title in 1998, they were beaten by the Chiefs in the opening round – while it was only a two-point defeat, it was still a loss.

But back to the drawing board they went, and after a frustrating couple of years in Super Rugby, the legendary franchise etched their names into rugby folklore with a title.

And the precedent of opening round losses goes further than that for the successful team.

The Crusaders also reached the Final in 2004, 2005 and 2011 after recovering from slow starts. It happens, and they aren’t the only sports team to have ever bounced back from a slow start.

As reported by The Sporting News last year, three teams have won the Super Bowl after starting their season with two losses from as many games.

The 1993 Dallas Cowboys, Tom Brady’s 2001 New England Patriots, and the 2007 New York Giants were all crowned ‘world champions’ after a disastrous start to their seasons.


While they didn’t win the sport’s most prestigious trophy, another Patriots side in the mid-1990s lost the Super Bowl after an 0-2 start. It can happen.

Moving onto basketball, one of the most famous championship teams of all time rallied from an impossible position to win it all in 2016.

LeBron James famously inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers to a NBA championship after slumping to a 1-3 series record in the Finals against Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors.

While the Crusaders’ one loss is by no means as extreme, it just shows that winners do exactly what they’re known for – and that’s to win.

It is true that the Crusaders are currently travelling through unchartered waters as they prepare for next weekend’s Super Round in Melbourne.

They’ve lost matches before to start their season, but a 21-point defeat is new en route to a title.

But just like Tom Brady’s Patriots and LeBron’s Cavaliers, the Crusaders have an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the champions moniker once more.

Records are made to be broken.

Their resurgence begins on Friday at 8:00pm NZT when they take on the Highlanders – another team desperate to bounce back.

But the Crusaders will show their class, I’m sure of it. And deep down I think everyone in the rugby community feels the same.

While it’s weird and unusual to see the Crusaders occupying 10th spot on the ladder, Scott Robertson and his team won’t want to stay there long.

Championship teams thrive under pressure. They’ve done it before, and the decorated Super Rugby franchise won’t go down without a fight.

The Chiefs poked the bear on Friday. So be wary of the Crusaders who still deserve to be Super Rugby Pacific favourites.

Don’t forget: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.


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RUGBYPASS+ Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.' Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.'