CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Aug 6 – The Canterbury Crusaders were feted Sunday as “one of the most successful sporting franchises” as New Zealanders put aside provincial loyalties to praise the eight-time Super Rugby champions.
The Crusaders’ 25-17 victory over the Golden Lions in Johannesburg was the first time a team had crossed the Indian Ocean to win a final in South Africa.
It was also only the second time a team had won the championship on foreign soil after the Crusaders beat the ACT Brumbies in Canberra in the 2000 final.
New Zealand Herald writer Liam Napier pointed out the Crusaders had everything stacked against them in terms of travel, altitude and crowd.
“Harnessing the character of a city that has endured so much pain, the Crusaders defied it all,” Napier said, recalling the devastating 2011 earthquakes in the Crusaders’ homebase of Christchurch.
“For that reason alone the hat must be tipped to one of the most successful sporting franchises.”
The game was watched in New Zealand in the early hours of Sunday and locals took to talkback radio and online discussions to express their delight.
Former All Blacks and Springboks hailed the Crusaders on social media.
“Well done to the @crusadersrugby,” tweeted former Crusader and All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter.
“Only one loss all year, Congrats lads @crusadersrugby,” added Sonny Bill Williams, while former Springbok lock Bakkies Botha said the win was “well deserved. Enjoy.”
Nearly 61,000 people packed out the Johannesburg stadium to cheer on the Lions.
But they were instead forced to watch the Crusaders race to a 12-0 lead following tries by Seta Tamanivalu and Jack Goodhue and, by half-time, they were up 15-3.
A third try to Kieran Read and two Richie Mo’unga penalties put the Crusaders 25-3 ahead before the Lions produced two late tries by Malcolm Marx and Corne Fourie.
The team has consistently been in the Super Rugby play-offs and ex-Crusader turned coach Scott Robertson said this title, the first in nine years, would put an end to the annual pre-season question fired at the Canterbury franchise.
“Every time people ask us about not having won the trophy for a while — well now we won’t hear that question for a while,” he said.