As the Crusaders plot a way forward in Sydney with their very identity in question after the atrocities committed in Christchurch last week, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has cut to the heart of the matter, saying the whole country can provide a shining light of tolerance to the rest of the world.

The Crusaders, who will play the Waratahs tomorrow night, have become accustomed to being a touchstone during times of natural disasters, and their response at the Sydney Cricket Ground to something far more malignant will attract the interest of those far beyond the casual rugby fan.

Already their response to the terror in the city which resulted in the deaths of 50 Muslims has been virtually note perfect; a promise, once everyone is ready, to address their name and symbolism which they acknowledge may now not be appropriate in this vastly altered landscape. Talks with the Muslim community have been quite rightly set down as a priority.

But, as All Blacks coach Hansen states in an interview with the Herald, the way we interact with each other, and behave in general as a society, is far bigger than a team, Christchurch or even New Zealand.


"It's an opportunity to change things, to make things better," Hansen told the Herald as he continues preparations for a World Cup defence in six months. "It would appear that that is happening. But the key thing is that continues to happen for a long time.

"This hasn't just affected Christchurch, it's affected everybody in New Zealand. What we need from every individual from our country is calm heads and loving minds and coming together and understanding that we've got to respect each other and love each other and care for each other.

"If we can all do that it doesn't matter what colour our skin is or what religious beliefs we have. We'll lead the world – it's not just a New Zealand problem, is it? It's a world problem and it's been brought home to us because of one idiot. The best thing we can do to fight it is just stamp it out."

Steve Hansen Coach of the All Blacks. Photo /
Steve Hansen Coach of the All Blacks. Photo /

Hansen, who lives on the outskirts of Christchurch, said he was "shocked" by the shootings at the Al Noor mosque in Riccarton and the masjid in Linwood a week ago.

He had high praise for his All Blacks, including Sonny Bill Williams, TJ Perenara, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Beauden Barrett, who have shown such empathy and leadership in speaking about one of New Zealand's darkest days. Blues midfielder Williams is lending his support and profile in order to fundraise for his Muslim brothers and sisters, his franchise readily agreeing he needed to be in Christchurch.

Hansen added: "It's great to see people standing up at the moment, but we've got to stand up now for the test of time; doing it for a few months is not enough, we've got to do it for the rest of our lives."

The Crusaders, who had their game against the Highlanders in Dunedin cancelled last Saturday as a mark of respect, are scheduled to join the Waratahs in a large circle at the SCG – just as the Chiefs and Hurricanes did at Waikato Stadium last week.

The moment, and match itself, will also be poignant for Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, a former player and assistant coach of the Crusaders, who said: "It's a huge tragedy that's occurred in Christchurch. But once the whistle goes I'm sure it'll be back to business for them.


"Rugby is one avenue where it can be an outlet beyond just the sporting and society confine, so I think you'll see the team really going out and playing for a purpose."

The defending champions have always sought to unite and that again has been evident in their words during a shocking and unprecedented last few days. Tomorrow they will do so again with their actions as New Zealand continues to mourn and reflect.