Why the Crusaders will win

For the last six years winning the Super rugby title has also meant finishing at the top of the log.

And with the Crusaders shaping up to be runaway log leaders after a late charge, it is going to take a colossal effort to oust them from their throne in Christchurch.

The only team who has ever won the Super 14 playing away in a semi-final or a final are the Crusaders themselves.

The Blues in 1996, 1997 and 2003 finished top of the log to set up their title claims, as did the Brumbies in 2001 and 2004.

Remarkably, all of the Crusaders’ first three titles saw them complete away victories in all of the finals, as well as in an additional semi-final after they had finished fourth on the 1999 log.

An additional statistic which has traditionally necessitated a title victory has been a clean sweep of home wins during the league phase.

The only side still unbeaten at home this year are the Crusaders. In fact, they have not lost their last 26 home games. They have only lost 2 of their last 43 home games.

If anybody else wants a turn at winning the title this year, it really is best if you don’t have to face them at home. But the prospect of that happening is growing slimmer as the weeks go by and the play-offs draw ever nearer.

Interestingly, the only side ever to have gone on to win the title after having lost a home game is, you guessed it, the Crusaders.

They did that three times in fact, in those self-same first three championships of 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Tellingly, each year that they lost at home, they managed to beat the side who beat them in the play-off end of the tournament to claim the title.

When you look at these statistics you realise that there is more than a rugby reason behind the Crusaders’ success.

There is something within the fabric of team. They simply know how to win when it counts. In the finals that they have appeared in, they have an average positive points difference of under five.

 

Meaning that on average, everytime they have appeared in the final, they have – on average – won the game by less than five points.

Yet this has translated into six titles out of eight finals appearances.

They win the close finals over and over again. The common denominator in this has been the influence of manager and later coach Robbie Deans.

When you look at these statistics, one has to seriously wonder if anybody has it in them to displace the Crusaders this year.

But take another look at history.

The Blues used to carry this unbeatable aura as well; until an unlikely team travelled to the formidable Eden Park in Auckland and beat the mighty home side (who were unbeaten that year until then) to take the title, thus beginning a royal lineage which has prevailed until now.

It is going to take a genuine usurper to the Crusaders throne to defeat them this year, and not a mere pretender.

Anyone out there up for a revolution?

By Chris Waldburger  365 Digital

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