Maybe it's a sign that the Crusaders are back to their ruthlessly efficient best ... or just maybe no-one likes them.

Less than a week after Chiefs coach Dave Rennie spoke openly about the hatred his team held for the southerners, Hurricanes captain Dane Coles seemed to join the critics.

After his side was toppled 44-29 by the Lions in Johannesburg, Coles announced: "I know the Hurricanes boys will be cheering on the Lions next week.

"They deserve to be there ... they are a great side, I wish them all the best for next week."
If there was any tongue in check there, it wasn't obvious.


Coles' comments seem treasonous, favouring a South African side over his fellow Kiwis in a Super Rugby final.

But Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach told Radio Sport Breakfast that they were unlikely to fire up his team any more than they already were.

"We'd take great pleasure if we could get up for a win in Jo'burg, but it won't be about Dane Coles.

"It was interesting ... he was in South African and just been rolled by a team that had a pretty decent second-half performance, so maybe it was a reflection of that.

"Or maybe he really doesn't like us, I'm not sure, but the more conversations we having about these rivalries and the passions of these fans, the better.

"Sport is about raw emotion and passion, and people having favourite teams and disliking other teams."

Riach seemed comfortable enough that after nine years without a Super Rugby crown and two since their last final appearance, the competition's winningest franchise has a chance to capture its eighth title.

The Christchurch-based outfit ran up a 14-win/one-loss record through the regular season, suffering their only loss in the final week to narrowly missing out on home advantage through playoffs.

"This has been a really special year for us and the team has gelled together really well," Riach told RSB. "They've had a bounce of the ball a couple of times and made the most of that, and here we are in the final.

"It feels fantastic."

But he admitted the home support for the Crusaders during this year's quarter-final and semi had been disappointing, after a season where crowds were generally up on recent years.

AMI Stadium was far from sold out on Saturday, when the Crusaders dispatched the Chiefs 27-13.

"We've had a lift in crowd support this year," said Riach. "We had the temporary stands in early and we sold out the Highlanders and the Hurricanes, and had a great night out against the Lions.

"We were really hopeful the playoff games would sell really well, but then we had the quarter-final played in appalling weather. I think the semifinal was more about people having that experience or seeing it on TV, and saying 'actually, you don't need to do that'.

"[Ticket] sales started really well early in the week and then there was a forecast for another southerly to come through near the end of the week. Sure enough, on Wednesday or Thursday, it started raining again and it was cold and there was a bit of sleet, and sales stopped ... they just stopped.

"Even though the day itself came right, with sunshine and a clear night, we think the bulk of the reaction was more about Christchurch and winter and that stadium than it was about support for us."

Since Canterbury and Crusaders rugby was forced to the former rugby league headquarters by the 2011 earthquakes, the city has struggled for adequate first-class rugby facilities, and Riach was happy that this latest crisis has forced another debate about improvements.

"The conversation about the temporary nature of the stadium and the experience that people are having not being good enough is, in one sense, positive.

"If fans and people are saying 'we've had this for five years and it was a lifesaver at the time, but now we deserve better', then that conversation is really helpful and encouraging.

"But it's still going to take some time to deal with the issue and, in the meantime, if we're there another three or four or five years, the challenge for us is to make sure we do the very best we can, so people want to come.

"If there's a light at the end of the tunnel - if you know you've only got one more year of something, with something better coming - you can kind of put up with it, but we're not at that point yet."