2024 Crusaders Season Finale: Highlights and Key Moments

The Crusaders 2024 season has drawn to a close, marking the end of a challenging yet spirited campaign. While congratulations are extended to the teams advancing to the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs, immense pride is taken in the efforts of the team and the entire organization. Despite facing tough results and on-field performances that didn’t always meet high standards, the dedication and hard work poured into this season are commendable.

Several games were decided by narrow margins, with six losses occurring by less than seven points. These fine margins often influenced the position on the competition table. One of the strengths over the years – contributing to seven consecutive Super Rugby titles and 14 titles since 1996 – has been playing with unity and representing the proud rugby regions of the South Island.

Now, there is a commitment to identifying areas for improvement to come back even stronger. As part of the process, a thorough performance review will be conducted. This will help understand what went right, identify areas that need improvement, and avoid any hasty decisions.

The review will include feedback from all players and coaches, with some participating in workshops. These reviews often provide valuable insights that, while not always shared publicly, drive meaningful changes. Looking forward to learning from these insights and enhancing operations for the 2025 season.

Super Rugby Pacific Playoffs Drama Unfolds

In a dramatic end to the regular season, the Wellington Hurricanes secured the top spot in the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs. They narrowly edged out the Auckland Blues, who came second after a thrilling match against the Waikato Chiefs in Auckland. The Blues were aiming for a bonus-point win to claim the top position; however, a last-minute try by the Chiefs’ Josh Ioane dashed their hopes, leaving the Blues with a bittersweet 31-17 victory. Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu expressed his disappointment as his team had dominated the game, with stellar performances from Hoskins Sotutu, who scored two tries.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes showcased their dominance by defeating the Otago Highlanders 41-14 in Wellington. Winger Salesi Rayasi shone with a hat-trick of tries, and TJ Perenara also added to the scoreboard despite limping off with a knee injury. The Hurricanes’ fast-paced style earned them 12 wins in 14 games, setting them up as formidable contenders in the playoffs. Next week, they will host the eighth-placed Melbourne Rebels, while the Blues will face the Fijian Drua.

In other playoff matches, the third-ranked ACT Brumbies will take on the Highlanders in Canberra, and the fourth-placed Chiefs will compete against the Queensland Reds in Hamilton. Notably, the seven-time defending champions, the Canterbury Crusaders, have been ousted from the title race. The Crusaders’ hopes were dashed when the Fijian Drua overwhelmed the Rebels 40-19 in Lautoka, marking the end of their seven-year championship run under new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson.

The team has struggled under his successor, Rob Penney, and despite a 43-10 victory over Moana Pasifika, it was too late to secure a spot in the postseason. Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge has announced a “full performance review” without pointing fingers or making any rash decisions, indicating a thoughtful approach moving forward.

Despite their loss, the Rebels have qualified for the finals for the first time in their 14-season history. It remains uncertain if they will continue beyond this season, given Rugby Australia’s recent decision to shut down the debt-laden club after rejecting a private takeover bid. Fans and analysts will be watching closely as the play-offs unfold, with many placing their bets on platforms like FanDuel sports to see who will emerge victorious.

The Takeaway

The Crusaders’ 2024 season was defined by determination and resilience. Although they did not make the playoffs, the close margins in many games highlighted their competitiveness.

The club’s unity and dedication to rugby’s heritage in the South Island remains a significant strength. Moving forward, the planned performance review aims to uncover key insights and areas for improvement. This reflective approach promises to make the team stronger for the 2025 season.

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