In a paradoxical way it was the fact the Crusaders were dominated in so many areas yet still won their semifinal with a degree of comfort that marks them as such strong candidates to win the final.

They produced classic playoff football in that they hardly had the ball and were barely in the Chiefs half. It was the Chiefs who played all the rugby and did all the running and attacking, but the Crusaders tackled with extraordinary precision and commitment.

It was a defensive master-class - an effort that epitomised the togetherness and collective desire that this Crusaders team has found since the arrival of new coach Scott Robertson.

The Chiefs hammered away at them for what seemed like hours and they couldn't find the half break, not when it mattered, anyway.


The Crusaders just wouldn't buckle. They didn't miss a tackle, never stopped getting off the line and while the Chiefs were often able to build 20 phases, they never managed to build them well enough to create the opportunities they needed.

At the other end of the field, the Crusaders had three chances in the first 55 minutes and scored three tries. That sort of clinical finishing wins titles. That sort of relentless defending wins titles. The mindset of the Crusaders also has to be acknowledged because they never looked hurried or panicked at being forced into doing so much defending.

They had faith in their plan, knew that they were good enough to absorb all the pressure. Again, that calm, that composure and innate confidence screams of a team that is ready to win a title.

They will be ready to do it all again this week. They are too motivated to worry about fatigue. They are too determined to not let another opportunity slip that they will be fired up, hungry and just as controlled as they were against the Chiefs and indeed the Highlanders.

And their focus will be so singular that they won't dwell on why it was, for the second week in succession, there was barely a soul watching them.

It was understandable that AMI Stadium was a sea of empty seats last week when Christchurch was in a state of emergency.

But to see a similarly scant crowd turn up for a semifinal on a cold but dry night against a fearsome domestic rival, suggests that Super Rugby may well be broken beyond repair.

That is sadly the story that will over shadow the final week of the competition. That is sadly the reality that is increasingly hard to dismiss as this disastrous 18-team format lumbers to an end.


It's been such a shambles, such a convoluted, confusing journey to this point it seems as if so few people now care how it all ends - just as long as it ends.

The people of Christchurch still love the Crusaders but perhaps they, like many other regions, are finding it hard to separate their feelings for their team from their lack of feelings for the wider competition.

How else to explain it because whoever thought there would be rugby apathy in Christchurch? How could that happen? How could that make sense in this of all years when the Crusaders, after an eight-year title drought, have been in such commanding form?

It should be a worry for Sanzaar - a worry for the New Zealand Rugby Union that their teams, or at least four of them, have enjoyed yet another supremely good season, dominated the competition, played spectacular rugby at times and yet the playoff venues have been ghost towns.