A loss of key leadership personnel at the Crusaders in 2020 has so far not hampered their dominant position in Super Rugby. They’ve just had the one loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton, and a close call against the Reds in Christchurch, but they are still at the top of the New Zealand conference. Rookies like Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Sione Havili and Leicester Fainga’anuku have slotted straight into Super Rugby level and players who have recently been given their opportunities like Dallas McLeod and Fergus Burke made the most of it.
Position: 3rd overall and 1st in New Zealand conference
Leading point scorer: David Havili (30)
Leading try scorer: Braydon Ennor (4)
The Crusaders bounced back with vengeance after their loss to the Chiefs, with a 25-8 victory over the Blues in Round 3. There were some classy performances from the Crusaders backline, with George Bridge, Jack Goodhue and Richie Mo’unga all scoring. It was a bit of a scrappy first half, but the Crusaders set piece was strong in the second stanza and they were able to capitalise on the Blues errors.
There have been several standout rookies for the Crusaders, but Tom Christie has been in sublime form. The 22-year old flanker leads the competition for the most tackles, with 106, averaging 17.7 per game. He’s also got a 97% tackle success rate. In six games, Christie has scored two tries, made 32 carries, 104 metres and five clean breaks. His stats speak for himself.
George Bridge. Whilst you probably wouldn’t think of Bridge as a veteran at just 24, he’s in his fourth year with the Crusaders and is one of the more experienced players in the group. He’s been dangerous with the ball in hand and has made a number of crucial tackles throughout the opening seven rounds of the competition. He even took over the captaincy reigns against the Sunwolves last weekend. Bridge has beaten the third most defenders in Super Rugby this year with 29, and he’s slotted around the backline with ease, having played on the left wing as well as full back.
The Crusaders named nine rookies at the start of the season and seven of those players have already made their debuts. Scott Robertson has put faith in his young guns, and they’ve performed for him. Even when they were under immense pressure from the Reds in Round 6, they were able to hold on for victory and withstand the pressure. This young looking Crusaders side are dangerous and if they get another chance to play this Super Rugby season, their opposition will need to do a lot of homework on their new threats.