With a nick-name ‘Razor’ it is little wonder that breakdancing Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has a happy knack of surviving close shaves.
And so it was in Sunday’s emotionally-charged Super Rugby Ellis Park final against the Lions before 62,000 frenzied Johannesburg fans who believed their team could add the Crusaders’scalp to that of the Hurricanes.
That they came so close after Kwagga Smith was red-carded in the 38th minute for tackling David Havili in the air said much for their quality. But it also spoke volumes for the character of the Crusaders who won their eighth Super crown and first since 2008.
They are also the only team to have won a final on foreign soil – and have done it twice.
It was magnificent defence that ensured success in a hard-fought 25-17 victory. And in Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty and Israel Dagg, they have a group of quality leaders who know how to handle a crisis in the heat of battle.
Renowned for his lineout work, Whitelock’s tackle count rivalled that of Todd and All Blacks skipper Read and his captaincy has been outstanding since taking over the Crusaders role from the latter.
Fittingly, second-five Crotty was named man of the match for another faultless performance sandwiched between highly promising Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhew, who look set to serve the side with distinction for many years.
Dagg was once again outstanding in fielding long-range kicks and replying with interest. And strong-running fellow wing Seta Tamanivalu took his chance well to score the first try before Goodhew and Read added the others.
Assisted by Leon MacDonald, Jason Ryan and Brad Mooar, Robertson and his fellow coaches have provided the Crusaders with a better balanced all round game to achieve a title that eluded previous chief mentor Todd Blackadder.
Having been the only team to beat the Crusaders in this year’s Super championship, the high scoring Hurricanes can hold their heads high too.
With midfielders Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso combining to score 29 tries this season, the Hurricanes have superior strike power. But they don’t have the same cool-headed leadership group or disciplined defence under intense pressure.
However with the Chiefs and Highlanders also enjoying some magic moments and the Blues improving before their disastrous humiliation against the Sunwolves, the future looks bright.
However beware of a Springboks test team if they can provide much of the brilliance and steel that has been the hallmark of the Johan Ackermann-coached Lions.
Meanwhile, the country can bask in the glory of Tom Walsh’s shot put triumph in emulating the feats of discus thrower Beatrice Faumuina (1997) and shot put star Valerie Adams (2007-9-11-13) in winning world athletics titles.
A likeable 25-year-old Timaru builder who had previously won a world indoor crown and claimed a third placed bronze medal at the 2015 Rio Olympics, Walsh was amazingly consistent.
It was sad to see popular superstar Jamaican sprinter Usain Boult bow out of athletics with a third placed bronze in the 100m and wonderful to see 5000 and 10,000m Olympic gold medallist friend Mo Farrah finish a champion on track before he sets his sights on the marathon.
Both have enriched the sport with spectacular deeds which have won them international acclaim and enthralled fans.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author