How good are the Crusaders in Christchurch? The numbers render all purple prose redundant.
The Crusaders beat the Hurricanes in the semi-final last Saturday to extend their unbeaten run in Christchurch to 30 matches. The streak – which includes 29 wins and one draw – stretches all the way back to 2016 (see details below).
The Crusaders’ recent win against the Hurricanes allowed them to keep their formidable playoff record intact. The Cantabrians have never lost a knockout game in Christchurch.
The odds are against any side travelling to Christchurch for a final. Any team journeying from overseas must deal with the added challenge of travel fatigue.
Ask the Lions, who travelled to New Zealand for championship matches in 2016 and 2018. As if playing at the Cake Tin and in Christchurch wasn’t tough enough, the Lions were significantly handicapped by the draining trip across the Indian Ocean.
Do the Jaguares have any reason to hope that their visit to Christchurch will be different?
Perhaps. While no visiting team has won a final staged in Christchurch, one side has tasted success in a decider overseas.
The smart money was on the Lions lifting the 2017 Super Rugby trophy. They were expected to win a final staged on the highveld in front of 60,000 partisan fans. They were expected to punish a Crusaders side coming off a brutal semi-final against the Chiefs as well as a taxing journey from Christchurch.
And yet it was the Crusaders who started the game with a bang by scoring two tries in the first quarter. The visitors had some luck – as Crusaders coach Scott Robertson admitted later – when Kwagga Smith took David Havili out in the air at the end of the first half and was given a red card.
That latter incident allowed the exhausted Crusaders to stay in the contest in the second stanza. If it was 15 versus 15 in the dying moments, as Robertson pointed out, the result may have been different.
One incident can change the course of a game and render all prematch predictions and records irrelevant. The Jaguares may need this kind of luck to end the Crusaders’ awesome home run and claim their first Super Rugby title.
CRUSADERS UNBEATEN RUN IN CHRISTCHURCH
|W 30-26 vs Hurricanes (semi-final)|
|W 38-14 vs Highlanders (quarter-final)|
|W 66-0 vs Rebels|
|W 19-11 vs Blues|
|D 21-21 vs Sharks|
|W 36-10 vs Lions|
|W 43-17 vs Highlanders|
|W 36-14 vs Brumbies|
|W 57-28 vs Chiefs|
|W 38-22 vs Hurricanes|
|W 37-18 vs Lions (final)|
|W 30-12 vs Hurricanes (semi-final)|
|W 40-10 vs Sharks (quarter-final)|
|W 24-13 vs Hurricanes|
|W 45-22 vs Highlanders|
|W 54-17 vs Blues|
|W 31-29 vs Waratahs|
|W 33-11 vs Sunwolves|
|W 33-14 vs Bulls|
|W 45-28 vs Stormers|
|W 45-23 vs Chiefs|
|W 27-13 vs Chiefs (semi-final)|
|W 17-0 vs Highlanders (quarter-final)|
|W 25-22 vs Highlanders|
|W 20-12 vs Hurricanes|
|W 57-24 vs Stormers|
|W 50-3 vs Sunwolves|
|W 45-17 vs Force|
|W 33-24 vs Blues|
|W 17-13 vs Brumbies|
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images