Super Rugby Pacific: Former All Black refuses to read too much into Crusaders’ loss to Waratahs

·2-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

New Zealand legend Jeff Wilson devalued the Waratahs’ win over the Crusaders, attributing it down to the fact that the reigning Super Rugby Aotearoa champions were without star fly-half Richie Mo’unga.

The Crusaders travelled to the Leichardt Oval as resounding favourites against the Tahs but left as losers as the Australian side clinched a slim 24-21 victory.

The visitors were stunned by the seventh placed Waratahs in front of a passionate New South Wales crowd in the Super Rugby Pacific competition.

The outcome was unexpected considering the Crusaders‘ recent success – they are in pursuit of a sixth title in as many seasons – and the Waratahs’ struggles in 2021.

While this may be a sign of bigger and better things to come for the Australian side, Wilson has played down the result.

No Mo’unga, no win

“This team was struggling last year. They were young, inexperienced – they’ve got some players into their environment who have made a huge difference,” Wilson said about the Waratahs on The Breakdown.

“Michael Hooper, in that environment, has led them from the front. He is a world-class leader and player, but two words: Richie Mo’unga, was not playing in this game for the Crusaders.

“He is their talisman, he is their best player. He has been multiple time Super Rugby Player of the Year, so when you take a key player, a key piece of your puzzle out of it, your first-five, you don’t win this competition without a world-class fly-half.

“It is proven over time in history, so I don’t read anything into this result, other than the fact that they’ve now lost control of their destiny, particularly about controlling playing at home in the playoffs.

“For me, Scott Robertson’s got some things that he’ll want to deal with, but in the end, his best player, his most influential player, was not playing because he was on rest duties. It was time for him to have a week off.”

On the other hand, fellow ex-Kiwi international Sir John Kirwan was critical of the Crusaders and quick to praise the Waratahs for their growth and team culture.

“The Crusaders are starting slow. They’re traditionally really good starters, they put pressure on at the start of the game. They’ve been starting slow all year, but I also think the Waratahs have been building,” Kirwan said.

“When you listen to them after the game and you listen to them talk, they’re saying ‘we’re building a family’, you can see the culture starting to turn around, and I think they played out of themselves.”

READ MORE: Australia head coach Dave Rennie acknowledges Fraser McReight’s stunning form

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