11 Jul 2020

Crusaders vs Blues: Top five talking points

1:21 pm on 11 July 2020

Anticipation for the Super Rugby Aotearoa round five clash between the Crusaders and the Blues comes with good reason.

Crusaders 1st-five Richie Mo'unga,


Rooted in the decades-long bitter rivalry between Canterbury and Auckland at provincial level, the match-up between two of the competition's most successful franchises is one of the most intense in Super Rugby's 25-year existence.

The Crusaders' ongoing success and the decline of the Blues has meant that rivalry has lost its sting in recent times but, ahead of this latest encounter, interest levels are well and truly back.

RNZ Sport takes a look at the top five talking points ahead of tonight's match in Christchurch.

On song

The Crusaders have been consistently winning matches for a long time. But it's the resurgence of the Blues in 2020 which is a big reason behind the re-ignition of this rivalry.

Having finished no higher than ninth since their 2004 semifinal appearance, the Auckland-based side appear to be turning a corner this year. Four straight wins before Covid-19 suspended the original Super Rugby competition and a perfect three-from-three in the domestic format gives them a seven-match streak, second only to the 12 consecutive victories they racked up on their way to the 1997 title.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders have carried on being the Crusaders. The Scott Robertson-coached outfit lost just one of their six matches before Covid-19 struck, and also have three wins from three to start Super Rugby Aotearoa.

It all makes for a top-of-the-table clash between two teams pretty happy with how they're travelling.

Blues fans celebrate

Blues fans celebrate Photo: Photosport

Drought-breaking potential

The Blues' form also presents them with an opportunity to snap a variety of notable streaks.

Sixteen years and 12 defeats have come and gone since the Blues last won in Christchurch (see below), numbers which speak to their overall record away to the Crusaders of just three wins from 17 attempts. It's also been six years and 11 defeats since the Blues' last win over the Crusaders, reflecting the latter's sizeable 24-11 advantage in the overall head-to-head matchup.

Not that the Blues are alone in their struggles against the nine-time champions. The Crusaders are on a 35-match unbeaten streak at home and in 167 total matches in Christchurch, they've been beaten just 22 times.

They're all numbers which make a potential Blues' victory this time around all the more noteworthy.

Salt in the wound

The momentum behind the Blues has sparked memories of perhaps the most polarising moment in this bitter rivalry.

Fresh off the third of their three Super Rugby titles, the Blues had reason to be confident when they headed south to Christchurch for round two of the 2004 competition.

The Crusaders cantered out to a 24-12 halftime lead but, within 11 minutes of the restart, the Blues were level and soon after had the lead. Holding a two-point advantage with just a minute on the clock, the visitors simply needed to hold onto the ball and kick it into the stands to secure victory.

First-five Carlos Spencer, though, had other ideas, flinging a long pass in front of his own posts to spark a-length-of-the-field try he eventually finished off. Adding insult to injury for the home crowd, Spencer deliberately wheeled away to dot down next to the corner flag and then kicked the sideline conversion to deny the Crusaders a bonus point.

A flipping of the bird to the Red & Black fans completed the job. Needless to say, the gesture did not go down well with the Crusaders' faithful.

Red and black vs blue and white

Most fans of both of these teams were not fans of each other long before Super Rugby came along in 1996.

The rivalry between Canterbury and Auckland, the major provincial teams in the catchment area of the respective franchises, dates back more than a century.

Since the creation of the inaugural National Provincial Championship in 1976, the two teams have been the competition's most successful. Auckland lead the way with 17 division one titles, with Canterbury close behind on 14 and their nearest rival Wellington lifting the silverware on just four occasions.

Given that success, their annual battles have also often been regarded as the best team from the North Island against the best side from the South. In the land of friendly fan banter, it's the "latte drinking Aucklanders" from the big smoke against the "one-eyed Cantabrians" from the mainland. To the winner goes no shortage of satisfaction and bragging rights.

The addition of Super Rugby 25 years ago has simply further fuelled what was an already heated rivalry.

Crusaders legend turned blue

Dan Carter is as red and black as they come.

Born and raised in rural Canterbury, the All Blacks legend represented the province and the Crusaders for more than a decade before retiring from international rugby to pursue overseas opportunities. But the two-time World Cup winner will be dressed in blue when he wanders out onto the Orangetheory Stadium pitch tonight.

Carter's surprise addition to the Blues squad, after his time playing club rugby in Japan was ended early by Covid-19, has understandably not gone down well with many in Crusaders country. And even if his impact on the match will be limited to waterboy, with Blues coach Leon MacDonald (a Crusaders legend himself) not selecting the 38-year-old first-five in his matchday squad, it'll still be a shock for the home fans to see him in the colours of their arch-rivals.

If nothing else, it adds just a little extra spice to a match which already has the attention of rugby followers up and down the country.

Dan Carter during a Blues Super Rugby training session as rugby training resumes after the Covid 19 lockdown. Alexandra Park, Auckland, New Zealand. 4 June 2020. © Copyright Image: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Cantabrians will have the chance to see Dan Carter in a blue strip for the first time. Photo: Photosport Ltd

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