Crusaders not giving up on slim playoff hopes

Publish Date
Wednesday, 22 May 2024, 9:39AM

By Alex Powell

Down, but certainly not out, the Crusaders haven’t given up on reaching the Super Rugby Pacific post-season and competing for an eighth straight title.

On Saturday, the reigning champions fell to a 10th loss of the season, as a last-gasp penalty try condemned Rob Penney’s side to defeat at the hands of the Brumbies.

As a result, the Crusaders sit 10th on the ladder, six points off eighth place and playoff contention. However, given the generous nature of Super Rugby’s finals structure, the Crusaders still have a chance – mathematically, at least.

But even if they win their last two regular season games, other results will still need to go their way if they’re to have any hope.

With their season now on the line, a visit from the table-topping Blues leaves Penney’s side with their backs to the wall.

Not helping is that captain Scott Barrett is still in doubt with a back injury, even if Ethan Blackadder comes back into contention.

“All we can worry about is our performance,” said assistant coach Matt Todd. “If we take care of that, we’ll see what else happens. We’ll just worry about our part.

“It’s a great challenge this week, the Blues are in great form coming to our home. We’re excited by that challenge, these are the games you want to be part of.

“We’ll build this week nicely and get excited for Saturday.”

After seven years of unprecedented success under Scott Robertson, the Crusaders’ 2024 season campaign will hardly live in the memories of their faithful.

The team would be forgiven for looking back on their 12 matches so far this year with a “what if?” mentality. Of their 10 defeats, six have been by seven points or fewer.

If just two of those results had gone their way, the Crusaders’ post-season picture would look vastly different.

But asked if the past seven years of silverware was playing any part in the class of 2024′s struggles, Todd made it clear his side were not short of confidence for what could be their last two games of the year.

“When you’ve had success, you’re always confident of getting more success.

“Whether we were waiting for it to happen, as opposed to making it happen, I’m not sure.

“I think certainly the belief is still there that we can play good footy. We can beat anyone on our day.

“We just need to put the performance together over the full 80 minutes, not in patches.”

Even if the Blues are toppled, followed by Moana Pasifika a week later, the Crusaders won’t be guaranteed a playoff place.

Other results will need to fall in their favour, in particular the Fijian Drua and Western Force failing to win their last two games.

So sharp has the Crusaders’ decline been that having no control of their future is a scenario few of the red and black sides of the past would have experienced.

Todd was part of three of seven championships won by Robertson’s Crusaders, for whom winning became a habit.

But with something still to play for, he said the side now had a chance to show what they were made of. No side would want to face the reigning champions should they make the playoffs.

“It’s not where we want to be, it hurts that we are where we are.

“If you look back through the history of this club, they’ve had years where they haven’t been at their best.

“It’s the character of the team, what you do in those moments. It’s easy when it’s going well and everything is going as you hope. But in moments like this, when the season perhaps isn’t going how it is [supposed to], it’s a real character test, it shows what you’re made of.

“That’s our focus at the moment: revealing character and showing what the jersey and team mean to us.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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