The Key Moments that Mattered
The Moments that Mattered – The Building of the Crusaders’ Dynasty
December 1995 – The Crusaders are created and named, along with the four other New Zealand teams to contest the inaugural Super 12. The team is originally known as the Canterbury Crusaders, although the provincial affiliation is later dropped to satisfy the demands of the six smaller provinces involved within the franchise.
February 1996 – The Crusaders play their first games during a short two-match tour of South Africa. The side beats Western Province at Cape Town but loses to Northern Transvaal at Pretoria.
March 1996 – The Crusaders lose 26-27 to the Chiefs at Hamilton in their first ever Super 12 match. A week later, they are well beaten 18-49 by the Auckland Blues on their first appearance in Christchurch .
May 1996 – The first Super 12 ends with the Crusaders finishing last, having won just two of their 11 matches.
September 1996 – Former All Black and long serving Canterbury flyhalf Wayne Smith is unveiled as the new Crusaders coach, taking over from former All Black lock Vance Stewart. Former Canterbury and All Black fullback Robbie Deans is appointed as team manager.
March 1997 – The Crusaders open their campaign under the new coaching regime with a narrow 19-17 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch .
May 1997 – Despite ending with a record breaking 48-3 win over the Queensland Reds at home, in a match that marked the Super 12 debut of future All Black captain Reuben Thorne, the Crusaders finish the second Super 12 a win outside of the semi-final places in sixth position.
October 1997 – A Canterbury side made up of Crusaders players wins the NPC. It is the first time the province has won the title in 14 years. The success occurs in the first year the team is coached by Robbie Deans.
March 1998 – A 24-31 loss at home to the Blues leaves the Crusaders running last after five rounds of the competition, with just one win from their first four matches.
May 1998 – A try by James Kerr three minutes from fulltime hands the Crusaders a remarkable 20-13 win over the Blues in the final, to claim their first title (left). The win is the Crusaders’ ninth in a row for the season, and represents the Blues’ first ever loss at Eden Park .
April 1999 – An Andrew Mehrtens dropped goal in injury time gives the Crusaders a vital 30-28 win over the Bulls at Pretoria . Had the Crusaders lost they would have been out of finals contention. Five weeks later they are crowned as Super 12 champions again after edging out the Highlanders 24-19 in an all South Island ( New Zealand) final in Dunedin .
December 1999 – Wayne Smith is appointed All Black coach, replacing John Hart. Robbie Deans is appointed as Crusaders coach with future Wales coach Steve Hansen appointed as his assistant.
May 2000 – A penalty goal three minutes from time hands the Crusaders their third straight title after a 20-19 win over the ACT Brumbies in a pulsating final at Canberra. Crusaders skipper Todd Blackadder (left) is announced as All Black captain for 2000 on the flight back to Christchurch after the match.
April 2001 – Despite a desperate late rally, the Crusaders fall short in losing 31-32 to the Cats of South Africa at Nelson. The loss is the Crusaders’ fifth of the season ruling them out of playoffs’ contention. The defending champions eventually finish the year in 10th place.
September 2001 – John Mitchell is appointed to succeed Wayne Smith as All Blacks coach and co-opts Crusaders coach Robbie Deans as his Coaching coordinator. Deans is allowed to remain as Crusaders coach also.
October 2001 – Canterbury wins the NPC title for the second time in the professional era, beating Otago 31-19 in the final. The match marks the New Zealand farewells for coach Steve Hansen (who departed for Wales ) and skipper Todd Blackadder (who leaves for Edinburgh ).
February 2002 – Reuben Thorne is appointed Crusaders captain, and survives a scare in his first match in charge as a late penalty goal by his brother in-law, Andrew Mehrtens, enables the Crusaders to beat the Highlanders 30-28 in Christchurch .
April 2002 – The Crusaders massacre the NSW Waratahs 96-19, scoring 14 tries, in a final round match between the teams who were ranked one and two on the point’s table.
May 2002 – A convincing 31-13 win over the ACT Brumbies in the final enables the Crusaders to become the first side to win all 13 matches of a Super 12 season, on the way to claiming the team’s fourth title in five years. Reuben Thorne (right) is named as All Black captain after the match.
June 2002 – An All Black starting XV featuring a record 14 players from the Crusaders beats Ireland 40-8 in a Test at Eden Park . Auckland winger Doug Howlett is the only non Crusader to start the match among the New Zealand team.
March 2003 – The Crusaders are belted 39-5 away to the Blues in the third round of the competition. Although the defending champions recover to make their fifth final, the Blues hold on to win the return game 21-17.
November 2003 – The All Blacks lose to Australia in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. John Mitchell is removed as coach in the aftermath while Robbie Deans, and later Reuben Thorne, also lose their positions with the All Blacks.
May 2004 – After losing their opening two matches at home, the Crusaders recover to reach their sixth final. However they prove no match for the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, trailing 33-0 after just 19 minutes before they rally to eventually lose 38-47
February 2005 – Richard McCaw (below left) is revealed as the new Crusaders skipper.
May 2005 – The Crusaders end the Super 12 era in style, beating the NSW Waratahs 35-25 in their seventh final appearance of the decade, to secure their fifth championship. As a reward, SANZAR decrees that the Crusaders can keep the Super 12 trophy, with a new one to be commissioned for Super 14.
February 2006 – A Crusaders side minus eight players with All Black experience from the previous year’scast opens the inaugural Super 14 with a commanding 38-15 win over the Highlanders.
May 2006 – The first Super 14 title falls the same way as five previous Super 12 titles did, after the Crusaders overpower the Hurricanes 19-12 in surreal surroundings amid the thick fog that enveloped Jade Stadium (right). The win was the 21st in succession achieved by the Crusaders in home matches, dating back to a loss to the Blues in the second round of the 2004 championship. This set a new Super rugby record, bettering the 20-straight wins achieved at home by the Blues between 1996 and 1998. It is also the sixth title and eighth final that Deans and Reuben Thorne have been involved in from their 10 years of involvement with the Crusaders.
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