Crusaders captain Codie Taylor has apologised on behalf of his team after the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy was damaged.
Tū Kōtahi Aotearoa, which the red and blacks claimed after defeating the Highlanders in their penultimate game of the competition, was a unique piece of artwork crafted in Ōtaki.
However during post-match celebrations the Crusaders admitted the trophy sustained minor damage, having been dropped. The team subsequently apologised and sought cultural advice.
Taylor engaged with an upset fan on Instagram, saying "obviously it's disappointing this is the case.. never our intentions as this is probably the most special trophy we have been represented... I apologise on behalf of the team and again appreciate the comment.. we aren't disrespectful, only human mate.."
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Taylor added "[I] appreciate you sharing your knowledge bro. On behalf of the team I am sorry to all for not taking better care of such a special taonga."
The damage included chunks of wood missing from the abase as well as the pounamu stone missing.
New Zealand Rugby head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum believes no further action in the form of punishment is needed.
"Clearly would've been nice for it not to happen but accidents do happen, and we know that the Crusaders have been in contact with the carver today to try to arrange for it to be fixed up and get the process around that right," he says.
"I don't see any further need to discuss that."
The Crusaders also apologised to the carver following the initial revelation of the damage.
Despite one week remaining in the competition, the Crusaders secured an unprecedented fourth consecutive title after defeating the Highlanders. Their final match against the Blues in Auckland this weekend remains in doubt due to the latest strand of coronavirus community transmission.