Todd Blackadder 1996-2001

Although he was captain for just one game in the first Super 12, standing in for Richard Loe, Todd Blackadder went on to lead the side for the next five seasons, providing a unifying presence, and a rallying point in tight situations. “He was a leader in the true sense of the word,” former Crusaders scrum half Justin Marshall says. “Toddy was never one of those guys who just issued orders. He led by example.” Blackadder, who did a stint coaching in Scotland following Canterbury ’s 2001 NPC triumph before returning to New Zealand, led the Crusaders to wins away from home in the finals of the 1998, 1999 and 2000 competitions. He finished his time at the Crusaders having played 71 games. Blackadder also led the All Blacks on 10 occasions in 2000, including Tests against France at Paris and Marseilles.

 

Todd Blackadder

Justin Marshall 1996-2005

It shows just how important Justin Marshall was to the Crusaders, in the eyes of his team-mates; that they judged his absence to be a void they could not fill, even though he was replaced in the squad by a fellow All Black in Kevin Senio. New Zealand’s most capped halfback in Tests with 79, Marshall was the most capped Crusaders player ever at the time he moved on to a career in the Northern Hemisphere. He played the 105th and final game of his Crusaders career in the 35-25 win over the NSW Waratahs in the 2005 final. Marshall was the only player in that match, who also appeared for the Crusaders in their first ever Super 12 match, a 26-27 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton back in 1996.

 

Justin Marshall

Andrew Mehrtens 1997-2005

The record point-scorer of the Super 12 decade, despite missing the first competition due to injury, Andrew Mehrtens often proved the difference between the Crusaders and other sides. In 1999 it was his last minute dropped goal that provided a critical 30-28 win over the Bulls at Pretoria that set the Crusade on its way to the final. A year later in the final, he kicked a penalty from near halfway in the final minutes to silence the Canberra crowd as the Crusaders stole a 20-18 victory over the ACT Brumbies. “Those sorts of moments when the pressure is at its greatest, they are the reasons why ‘Mehrts’ plays the game,” Crusaders coach Robbie Deans says. “The pressure is like a drug to him. He is a special player anyway, but when the going is at its toughest, that is when he really thrives!”

 

Andrew Mehrtens

Robbie Deans 1997-2008

It says much for the coaching career of Robbie Deans that his Super rugby record puts such notables as All Black coaches Graham Henry and Wayne Smith, as well as former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones, in the shade. As head coach at the Crusaders, Deans has won the title five times (three more than either Henry or Smith), while his team has only twice failed to make the final during his nine years in charge. But the Deans association with the Crusaders goes beyond his time as coach. Prior to assuming that position, the former All Black and Canterbury fullback acted as team manager for three years between 1997-99, during which time the Crusaders won the title in 1998 and 1999. While he was manager of the Crusaders, Deans also coached the Canterbury team in the NPC, guiding the side to its first national title in 14 years during his first season in that job in 1997.

 

Robbie Deans

Reuben Thorne 1997-2008

Such is the durability of Reuben Thorne; he was the only Crusader to start all eight finals in which the team featured between 1998 and 2006. He also played every minute of each of those games. Captain in 2002-04, Thorne made his Crusaders debut in the last game of the 1997 season. Thorne brought up his 100th competition appearance for the side in week two of 2006's competition against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane. All Black captain for two years under John Mitchell, Thorne led the side to 19 wins in 22 Tests. Unwanted at international level until his remarkable return midway through 2006, Thorne briefly reassumed the Crusaders captaincy last year when Richie McCaw was injured, leading the side to the six wins it needed to make the final, by which time McCaw was ready to return. “We’ve always called him ‘Mister Freeze’, former Crusaders hooker Mark Hammett says of Thorne. “He’s a great man to have in a pressure situation because nothing ever worries him. He doesn’t get emotional and always thinks with a clear head.”

 

Reuben Thorne

Richie McCaw 2002-2010

One of the outstanding All Blacks of recent vintage, Richie McCaw had played just eight minutes for the Crusaders in 2001 before going on to make the national side later that year. Although he admitted to feeling the pressure before the competition a year later, because he didn’t want to be viewed as “a one year wonder”, it hardly showed as McCaw excelled in a Crusaders side that swept through the 2002 competition unbeaten. Captain since 2005, and All Black leader as well since early 2006, McCaw says the Crusaders are an easy side to lead. “The structures we have in place within the side are pretty well organised so everybody knows their role. We’ve also been fortunate enough to have a large group of senior players to help drive everything.”

 

Richie Mccaw

Dan Carter 2003-2010

The most prolific point-scorer in Super rugby, Dan Carter is also now the highest points scorer in New Zealan Test history, having passed Andrew Mehrtens last season. The Southbridge junior plundered a record 221 points in the victorious 2006 Crusade, and has maintained an average in excess of 13 points per match for the Crusaders, and 15 per game for his country. The 2005 IRB Player of the Year, Carter has already scored the most Test tries by an All Black first-five-eighth. He is one of the best first-fives in the world and returned to the Crusaders for the 2010 season after having a sabbatical in Perpignan, France.

 

Dan Carter