Cru­saders build a new dy­nasty

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - BACKYARD BANTER - PAUL CULLY

There is good and bad news for sup­port­ers out­side the Cru­saders re­gion fol­low­ing the Cru­saders’ ruth­less win against the Hur­ri­canes last Fri­day night.

The bad news is that the Cru­saders are a young team – a lot key play­ers are in their early or mid 20s.

The good news is that Scott Robert­son is a bit of clown isn’t he? Well, no he isn’t.

In fact, he has sold us one of the big­gest dum­mies of the past 10 years, and it was com­pletely bought by mugs like me and oth­ers out­side the Cru­saders re­gion.

For­get the break­danc­ing and the com­i­cal in­ter­views, Robert­son’s a bril­liant se­lec­tor and mo­ti­va­tor.

After a pe­riod in which Su­per Rugby ti­tles have been shared around New Zealand (ex­cept Auck­land), the con­di­tions are in place for the Cru­saders to get mul­ti­ple ti­tles in the next five years.

Look at the play­ers who did the dam­age on Fri­day night.

Richie Mo’unga has just turned 24. Jack Good­hue is 22. Ge­orge Bridge is 23 and out­played Ben Lam, show­ing how close he is to an All Blacks callup.

Up front Scott Bar­rett is just 24. Quin­ten Strange, the most promis­ing young lock to emerge this year is 21, Michael Alaala­toa is 26.

Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Sam White­lock and Codie Tay­lor have many good years left in them too.

That’s the core of a side that is go­ing to be ex­tremely hard to beat this year and be­yond.

That back­line trio of Mo’unga, Good­hue and Bridge have the po­ten­tial to write their own places in the fran­chise’s his­tory.

They al­ready have one Su­per Rugby ti­tle to their name and be­cause none are All Blacks starters they have huge mo­ti­va­tion to keep im­prov­ing.

Clearly, too, there is a strong desire among the play­ers to stay in Christchurch.

Bar­rett, de­spite the ob­vi­ous link to the Hur­ri­canes where his brother plays, has re-signed un­til 2020. Bridge is locked in un­til 2022.

And take a peek be­low this tier of play­ers and you can al­ready see the next lot com­ing through.

Bray­don En­nor has shown glimpses of real abil­ity this sea­son, the New Zealand un­der 20s will be cap­tained by Can­ter­bury flanker Tom Christie this year and although in­juries have held back Will Jor­dan and half­back Ere Enari, they have al­ready given am­ple ev­i­dence of their tal­ent.

Jor­dan is an­other ex­am­ple of why the Cru­saders are so strong.

The young full­back is part of the en­ter­pris­ing Tas­man set-up which is proving to be a mag­net for young play­ers. Leon Mac­Don­ald’s de­par­ture from the prov­ince will be a blow but the foun­da­tions are well set.

This means that the Cru­saders are be­ing ser­viced by two suc­cess­ful, well-coached unions in Can­ter­bury and Tas­man who are fun­nelling topqual­ity play­ers into the sys­tem.

Ethan Blackadder is an­other ex­am­ple of that fruit­ful path­way. The son of Todd looks like an­other hard-nosed loose for­ward in the clas­sic Cru­saders mould, but take a closer look and you’ll see he has good hands too. He’s a real find. And so the ma­chine rolls on. In some way the mod­ern Su­per Rugby en­vi­ron­ment is even tougher than ear­lier eras, when the Cru­saders won seven ti­tles be­tween 1998-2008. That’s be­cause the tal­ent in New Zealand has been spread so widely through­out the five fran­chises.

How­ever, there is some­thing spe­cial build­ing again in Christchurch. They are the bench­mark again, and the other fran­chises have a job on their hands try­ing to catch them.

PHO­TOS: GETTY IM­AGES

Richie Mo’unga is just 24 and could be guid­ing the Cru­saders back­line around for many more years..

Ethan Blackadder is an­other hard-nosed Cru­saders for­ward who looks to have a promis­ing ca­reer ahead of him.

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