OPINION: No need to whisper it any more. If you live in Canterbury it’s time to get ready to party like it’s 1998.
Time to stop yearning for the excitement of the ’98 Crusaders win over the apparently invincible Auckland Blues. Good times are here again.
Time to think about how much fun the ’98 victory parade was, when Christchurch traffic officials estimated 100,000 people packed Colombo St, a bigger crowd than the annual Santa parade drew. Get out your walking shoes.
Time to also take 2017 coach Scott Robertson very, very seriously indeed.
Robertson has proved that having a bit of fun and winning big rugby games are not mutually exclusive.
It’s true the man they call Razor is cut from different cloth to any other New Zealand rugby coach. No matter how I wrack my brain, I can’t think of another New Zealand coach who would break dance to celebrate title victories.
But as much fun as the side shows are, don’t be distracted from his concrete achievements.
The stunning defence that closed down the Barrett brothers last weekend, that pressured the Chiefs so much in Suva Aaron Cruden, who set a gold standard for first-five play in the first half, was largely reduced to aimless kicking and indecision in the second, those defensive patterns were down to Robertson.
Defence was his speciality as a loose forward, and he’s the one in the Crusaders’ coaching team who devises the methods that have now seen his team nullify two terrific backlines, from the Hurricanes and the Chiefs.
In ’98, coach Wayne Smith put together a Crusaders side that was, in the words of Smith’s captain, Todd Blackadder, “a team of nobodies, with elder statesmen in the front row, two skinny locks, held together by skinny loose forwards.”
Robertson and his back specialists, Leon MacDonald and Brad Mooar, have worked the same sort of miracle with the 2017 backline.