- The Crusaders join the Super Rugby Aotearoa fray this weekend, only adding to the allure of Round Two.
- As 10-time champions, they have notched plenty of imperious victories over South African foes.
- Every now and then, SA opponents have left them with seriously bloodied noses.
Super Rugby Aotearoa got off to a largely rip-roaring start without them ... and now it is about to be infused by the legendary, 10-time title-winning Crusaders.
Their away tussle with the Hurricanes on Sunday (05:35 SA time) marks the entry of the broader Super Rugby champions of 2019 - and each of the two prior years as well - into the all-New Zealand tournament after a first-round bye for the Cantabrians.
As they enter the fray, and for the benefit of neutral South Africans watching, here is a reminder of some of the premier results achieved in history by the 'Saders against SA foes ... and also some of their less treasured outcomes at times.
SIX OF THEIR BEST
Bulls 24 Crusaders 62 (Pretoria, 2017)
After a poor spell, the Bulls were on a mini-roll (two wins on the trot) when they entertained the Crusaders in early May that year. But ouch ... it was right back to the drawing board here as they were blitzed by a 10-3 margin in tries at a venue where overseas foes are supposed to be the breathless ones. Jack Goodhue got a brace, but eight other individuals dotted in the romp as well.
Lions 17 Crusaders 25 (Johannesburg, 2017)
This was widely regarded as the Lions' best chance (in the middle period of three successive appearances in the final) to land silverware, as they staged the glamour game. Instead, it will largely be remembered as the match where flanker Kwagga Smith's reckless, dangerous aerial challenge on David Havili left the hosts playing the entire second half with 14 men. In truth, the Lions were already looking up against it in Johan Ackermann's farewell as their coach. The result created history: first time a side had successfully crossed the Indian Ocean to win the final.
Sharks 10 Crusaders 52 (Durban, 2015)
Just a week after being ousted by 12 points at Loftus in their SA tour opener, the Crusaders caught a complacent Sharks cold ... very cold. Different players accounted for each of their eight tries, a signal of their "total rugby" on the day, and the hosts could only reply with one from Odwa Ndungane in a tetchy clash: Jean Deysel saw red in the 40th minute and the Crusaders had three yellow-card offenders.
Crusaders 27 Bulls 0 (Timaru, 2011)
The Bulls arrived in small-town Timaru as defending champions, but weren't made to look like it as they suffered the rare indignity of a "nought" in their own column and 27 points against. In a disappointing comeuppance after beating the Hurricanes at Napier just one game earlier, the SA outfit leaked tries to Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Dagg and Tom Marshall.
Stormers 10 Crusaders 29 (Cape Town, 2011)
This was a big year for Allister Coetzee's Stormers: they'd ended second to the Reds overall and that meant rights to a crackerjack home semi-final against the third-placed 'Saders and their extraordinary "away" support base in the Cape. A full house at Newlands saw the visitors coast to victory against error-strewn opponents, with tries to Sean Maitland and Robbie Fruean, plus 19 points off the tee to Dan Carter. Bryan Habana notched the lone Stormers try.
Crusaders 75 Northern Bulls 27 (Christchurch, 2000)
Five years on from this, the 'Saders would post even more points of their own against the Sharks in a high-scoring 77-34 result, but at the time this was a record tally for them against South African foes on a woeful NZ leg for the eventually 11th-placed (so second-last) Bulls. After leaking 40 points to the Chiefs and then 54 to the Blues, the floodgates truly opened on the Bulls at Jade Stadium. In the 11-tries-to-three massacre, both Caleb Ralph and Marika Vunibaka registered hat-tricks.
SIX OF THEIR WORST
Lions 42 Crusaders 25 (Johannesburg, 2016)
Eventual finalists in Wellington a fortnight later, the Lions of 2016 confirmed their mounting mettle in this comfortable quarter-final dismantling of the Crusaders. They rocked the Cantabrians with tries to each of Courtnall Skosan and Rohan Janse van Rensburg within the first seven minutes, and then kept their collective foot fairly mercilessly on the pedal ... the margin would have been wider but for a last-minute try to Ben Volavola.
Crusaders 25 Sharks 30 (Christchurch, 2014)
This was a history-making occasion for the Sharks at the so-often graveyard AMI Stadium for SA sides, as hooker Kyle Cooper's late try made all the difference after a showing of murderous physicality and staunch defence by the unfancied visitors (the Crusaders had been on a five-game hot streak). All the more remarkable was that the KwaZulu-Natalians had played with 14 men from the 16th minute, after a Jean Deysel stamping misdemeanour, and 13 soldiers at one point in the second half with a yellow card to Willem Alberts.
Stormers 42 Crusaders 14 (Cape Town, 2010)
In his first year as the Stormers' head coach, "Toetie" Coetzee's charges produced possibly the stand-out showing (to this day?) in their history. Jaque Fourie scored a brace of tries, Peter Grant bossed proceedings at flyhalf - including booting 27 points - and Francois Louw, on the day, outfoxed All Black star Richie McCaw to an unusual degree in the battle at the breakdown. The Capetonians later went all the way to the Soweto showpiece against the Bulls, only to end up as bridesmaids.
Bulls 39 Crusaders 24 (Soweto, 2010)
This was the unforgettable soccer World Cup year in SA, and with Loftus out of rugby commission for preparation on that front, Orlando Stadium hosted both the Bulls' semi - this match - and the final against arch-rivals the Stormers a week later. This tussle was close to a carbon copy of the Pretoria semi a year earlier, when the Bulls won 36-23. Here, a typically testosterone-driven pack effort was the springboard to the Bulls' win, even if the try tally was split 3-3. Morne Steyn nailed 24 points off the tee as the hosts vitally commanded territory.
Bulls 27 Crusaders 12 (Pretoria, 2007)
This doesn't go down as a rugby union classic, as it was a try-less occasion despite the reasonably sizeable score. But Bulls fans hardly cared as they vitally won the semi-final ... a game marked by Derick Hougaard's rich solo harvest in kicking. "Liefling" succeeded with eight penalties and a dropped goal to Carter's four penalties as Heyneke Meyer’s charges vitally teed up that sting-in-the-tail, all-SA final against the Sharks in Durban ...
Transvaal 55 Crusaders 23 (Johannesburg, 1996)
Yes, the mighty Crusaders were pretty poor, believe it or not, in the maiden year of "pro era" Super 12 ... they propped up the table. En route, two matches on SA soil in the space of four days were especially fruitless for them. Then still boasting several RWC 1995 stars, Transvaal scored seven tries, including two to feisty hooker James Dalton, and Gavin Lawless was prolific at the posts, too. It softened up the 'Saders for the next game: they surrendered by the same margin, though the score was 58-26, to the Sharks.
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