A Great Win But Get It In Perspective
by Paul Waite
26 May 2002
Congratulations to the Crusaders and their fans. Commiserations to a Brumbies side which was well-mastered on the night.
With the pleasantries over with, let’s get a bit of perspective going here. There is a bit of background noise, mainly coming from Australia it has to be said, that the Crusaders have “taken the game to a new level”, or “raised the bar” is another little phrase being bandied about.
What’s happened is simple, and it isn’t about one final or even one team either. Since 1998 New Zealand rugby has, let’s be blunt, been crap. It’s been languishing in the doldrums. The why’s and wherefores I’ll leave to another column, but that’s the plain truth of the matter. The post Fitzpatrick-Brookes-Jones and Bunce/Little era has seen the game here wafting along in lightweight rudderless fashion, and it resulted for the most part in us getting stuffed across the board.
However for two seasons now there has been a recognition of something that some of us saw even in 1997 (check out the colmns and match reports on Haka); that New Zealand rugby had to get back to the basics of tight forward play to earn the platform to win.
This season the work which has been put in by the coaches at all levels has started to pay off. Looking at the hard physical, confrontational games that the Highlanders, Crusaders and Blues have been producing is a testament to that. No team has integrated it as well as the Crusaders have, (and given their talented squad that’s probably not surprising) and this has given them the platform to do what they did in winning all 13 games in the first ever Super 12 Grand Slam.
The perspective I talk about is easily achieved. Get the videos out of Super 12′s 1996-1997 when The Blues dominated the scene much like the Crusaders these days. You see the same platform exactly – a set of forwards who know how to work as a unit and do the hard work, as well as using their vision and skills to develop the more expansive elements of play. What we see there is not much different in essence to what we see from the Crusaders, played in their own inimitable style. The hard yakka is done, the tight work is drilled and put together on the park, and the results come.
So all this yada yada about “raising the bar” is pure hogwash. What we’re actually seeing is a New Zealand team excelling in the basics of the game that New Zealanders took for granted pre-1997 when the wheels began to fall off.
And, Aussie fans, if you think the Super 12 was a bit of a worry, wait for the Tri Nations. Take a last look at the Bledisloe Cup and the 3N Trophy itself.
Both are headed back over the Tasman.by