6 Aug 2018

Crusaders fans brave bad weather at victory parade

From Checkpoint, 5:42 pm on 6 August 2018

Crusaders fans braved bitterly cold and wet conditions today at a victory parade for the newly crowned super rugby champions.

The side withheld a strong challenge from South Africa's Lions on Saturday night to claim back to back super rugby titles.

A hardy crowd of about 500 turned out despite the atrocious weather, all for a chance to meet their heroes and see Crusaders captain, Sam Whitelock, raise the super rugby trophy high for everybody to see.

It was a dedicated bunch that waited for the team to arrive including one man who skived off work in order to take his son to see the team and didn't want to be named in case his employer caught him out.

"Yeah the young fella's looking forward to it today, he'll hopefully get a few of the Crusaders to sign his top. It's a good turnout, shame about the weather but can't do much about that ... good effort from the boys to go back to back."

Blake Ah-Kuoi, who took time off school to attend the parade, didn't get to go to the game and was looking forward to seeing the players up close, especially Ryan Crotty who played for the same rugby club as him.

Blake's father also played rugby for New Brighton and said it was a big day for rugby lovers in the city.

"2011 was special as well, they made it all the way to the finals but didn't crack it [then] first final last year and back to back titles this year, yeah nah it's awesome." 

One of the stand out players on Saturday night was lock Scott Barrett who was grateful for the support shown by fans today.

"Pretty awesome, didn't expect there to be a turnout like this, especially when it's raining, it's bloody awesome".

He said it had been a great last couple of days.

"We're just looking back on the season and celebrating appropriately and I guess saying goodbye to a few of our team mates as well." 

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Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The stitches on centre Jack Goodhue's face told the story of how much of a brutal encounter the final was, a game he was glad to play it in front of a home crowd.

"Yeah it's so much more enjoyable to have it at home and to be able to celebrate with the fans afterwards and to just be with family and friends as well."

He said everybody was feeling it after a bruising final.

"Yeah the body's pretty sore. I think the forwards where they attacked us the most, I think they will be the most sore but the feeling of winning makes it all worthwhile." 

Outgoing Crusaders boss, Hamish Riach, paid tribute to the supporters for coming out to celebrate despite the weather. 

"We sensed on Saturday night the community was right there with us and this just confirms how connected they feel to us. It's a marvellous moment."

He said it was a great way to say goodbye to the franchise.

"You couldn't script it any better if you're going to finish a job you love and in a place that has been so kind to us then to finish with a home game and a win ... it's marvellous."

All eyes will now be on the All Blacks selectors to see if Crusaders first five eighth, Richie Mo'unga gets the nod to start against the Wallabies in two weeks, ahead of Beauden Barrett, on the back of a storming super rugby season.