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The Crusaders have warned their second coming as Super Rugby’s kingpins isn’t over.
The most dominant team in the competition’s history made it nine titles in 22 years with their typically ruthless 37-18 defeat of the Lions in the final in Christchurch on Saturday.
Defending their title with virtually the same team who tasted glory against the Lions in Johannesburg a year earlier, the Crusaders are set to trot out close to an identical group in 2019.
Bursting with All Blacks forwards and some of the premier young backline talent in New Zealand, it seems even now it will take something special to prevent Scott Robertson’s men from claiming a hat-trick.
The charismatic coach told journalists his mind was “already wandering” to next year after a compelling display in the decider.
Before that, he was happy the Crusaders had reclaimed their status as indisputable competition top dogs.
They went without silverware for eight years under predecessor Todd Blackadder before Robertson sparked them into life last season.
Retiring prop Wyatt Crockett and Bordeaux-bound winger Seta Tamanivalu won’t be back next season.
Five-eighth Richie Mo’unga was otherwise licking his lips at the thought of playing in the same star-studded team, supported by a host of players who had made their Super Rugby debut this season.
“We’ve had to rely on a lot of our depth and no matter who we called upon, regardless of the age, the number on the back, they were able to do a job,” Mo’unga said.
“When you’ve got the players that we do, we’re at a stage now where we just want to express ourselves.”
Mo’unga’s brilliant season ended with a man-of-the-match display in the final.
Yet while he is a sure selection in the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship named on Monday, he is still unlikely to earn a Test debut in the two opening Bledisloe Cup Tests.
The 24-year-old said he would remain patient and reflect on what he had achieved over the past six months.
After back-to-back Super Rugby titles, the Crusaders now have their eye on a second franchise three-peat.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dickens once said. Such is the stark contrast between two cities and their respective rugby teams, tribalism, the Auckland Blues versus the Canterbury Crusaders.
Following on from the brief analysis of the Australian conference, I wanted to inspect the trans-Tasman rivals and see how the New Zealand conference had fared in the off-season too.
Rugby can be a bit slow at times.
Jack Debreczeni is the key name for Australian rugby fans on Wednesday morning as New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides begin to roll out their squads ahead of the 2019 season.