Crusaders build a new dynasty
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.
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.