Canterbury Crusaders Rugby, Christchurch
Rugby is the big team sport which is played in Jade Stadium in winter, and the Crusaders are probably the best club/regional team in the world. They have been the champions of the Super12 and Super14 series which is the league for the best professional rugby teams of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa - well... until their dreadful semi-final performance against the South African Bulls in May 2007...
Watching a Crusaders game is seeing many players of the famous All Blacks, New Zealand's great rugby team which was the world's dominant team from 2005 to 2007 until they lost their World Cup Quarter Final against France 18:20 in Cardiff on 6 Oct 2007... :-(
Oh, read my opinion from early 2007:
"The only danger for the All Blacks is coach Graham Henry who rested the All Blacks players for several months, so they would stay fit for the World Cup 2007 in France. The opposite was the case: Many were injured after the so-called reconditioning programme - which meant: building up muscles, getting faster, losing fat, and all while being wrapped in cottonwool."
And at the World Cup he practised an idiotic rotation system instead of making his best team run smoothly for the important games. I wonder why I always have to tell the coaches what would be the best thing to do. And do not blame me: I do tell them in advance because I have a lot of experience in sports and know how such things do end - and I wonder why they do think they could rewrite history! Graham Henry's reconditioning programme had already cost the Crusaders the Super 14 title! Thank you!
Anyway... The world's best players are part of the Crusaders: Daniel Carter (first five-eighth) was elected World Player of the year 2005 (and is still the most skilled and talented player alive) and his team mate Richie McCaw, the All Blacks skipper and flanker, in 2006.
Equipment: It is no problem NOT to show up in red and black - the colours of the Crusaders and of the Canterbury team. If it is not a super hot day always take at least a fleece jacket or other warm clothes with you, as especially in the high stands the wind can be rather strong and chilly. Sometimes it is even recommended to take a beanie and a blanket. If it is reallllllllly cold (and only Kiwis keep on walking around in shorts...) better go to the Holy Grail in Worcester Street and watch the game with other fans on TV... ;-)
Tickets at Jade Stadium (Stevens Street) and all Ticketek outlets (Town Hall, Ballantynes, Westpac Centre, most big shopping malls etc.)
It is great fun to watch a game in the stadium, not only because the Crusaders normally win ;-) It is also watching the fans who joke around with the opponent's fans who can happily sit within the "enemies" without being beaten up. The specatators comment mistakes and mishaps with laughter. If you are from Europe and used to football (soccer) crowds you might miss the passion and noise, the angry whistling and singing.
After the Super14 season rugby continues with the NPC, the national competition of regional teams. In summer you can watch cricket in Jade and other stadiums.
The most important news is that the Crusaders are still the best rugby (Union) team in the world. Last night they beat the Waratahs (from Canberra) in the final of the Super 14 league 20:12. The most important thing you should know about sport in NZ is: We support two teams; first our national team, second, any team that plays against Australia. Only if Australia plays against England we support Australia.
The Super 14 triumph was followed by the most terrible loss: Crusaders coach Robbie Deans left for Australia to become new Wallabies coach (national rugby team). Instead of giving him the All Blacks job we have to keep on living with this loser Graham Henry, and Robbie Deans will transform the Wallabies into the best team of the world. To be fair, it will not only be his effort. It is also the fact that an incredible lot of All Blacks players leave NZ for the sake of earning a lot of money in European clubs. Obviously nobody wants the best Aussies!?
Update August 2008
In the Bledisloe Cup the Aussies and Robbie Deans beat the All Blacks in Sydney, and the Aussies jubilated: Thank you, New Zealand, for gifting us the best coach in the world. Although I really like Robbie Deans and really dislike Graham Henry I did NOT support the Aussies, as quite some Kiwis did. And the All Blacks beat them convincingly in the return game in Wellington, and are on a good way again - for now. The All Blacks' and the Crusaders' best, Daniel Carter, will play a year in France and take time-out. A sad time for Crusaders and rugby fans - not only here in Christchurch.
The Crusaders are fantastic to watch. They paly a running version of the game - not the boring 10 man, keep it in the tight, no ruck Pom version (though they are the world champs????).
Equipment: A warm coat and beer money are your essentials - one doesn't want to be caught short after a big win
The Crusaders are the most successful of all Super 12 Rugby teams. They have many stars of the famous All Blacks and play an open form of the game running the ball as much as possible. The NPC team also has many stars so you can get your Rugby fix from March through to October when the seasons running.
Equipment: Make sure you bring warm clothes as most rugby is played at night-time and in winter it can get a bit chilly. The best stands to be in over winter are the number 2 and 3 stand as they are covered and on level 2 or higher in the Paul Kelly stand. If it's raining the DB stand (at the Port Hills end of the park) isn't too bad as it keeps the very cold Southerly off your back however it's out in the open!! The level one seating in the Paul Kelly stand is the most open to the elements as the wind can hit you from all directions. It's where the teams run on & off the ground so if you get low down & in the middle of the stand you get a good close up of your favourite player.