With former All Blacks and Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith dismayed at the current game and pining for the older days, sports reporter Jonty Dine looks back at his 10 most memorable moments in Super Rugby history.
Brumbies gallop out of the gates-With Larkham and Gregan at the height of their powers, the Brumbies stormed to a 31-0 lead over the Crusaders in the 2004 final. It would end 47-38.
Drua shocker- In just their second year, the Fijian Drua have managed to knock over the Crusaders and Hurricanes at home in 2023.
Rupeni’s rampage- The 2003 version of Rupeni Caucaunibuca was simply mesmerising.
10. Dixon goes beat mode
Elliot Dixon etched himself into Highlanders immortality when the flanker scored a stunning try in the 2015 Super Rugby final to help secure his franchise’s maiden title. Receiving the ball from Aaron Smith just inside the Hurricanes 22, Dixon ran around two defenders before being held up by TJ Perenara five metres short of the chalk. However, the hulking Southlander refused to go down and carried five ‘Canes across the line as he slammed the ball down. TMO Ben Skeen awarded the try to the horror of the Wellington crowd. and the Highlanders went on to win 21-14.
Watch it at 2min 20secs here:
9. Leyd’s magical assist
The Chiefs and Stormers’ round seven clash in 2017 resulted in two of the greatest tries of the year. The Chiefs struck first through through a James Lowe and Damian Mckenzie linking masterclass to get out of the danger zone before Toni Pulu finished off the stunning 90 metre movement. Not to be outdone, Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds pounced on a kick and produced a simply magical offload as he managed a reverse flick pass from the deck to teammate SP Marais who streaked away to score.
8. Crusaders rack up cricket score
The final round of the 2002 season saw a showdown between the top two sides as the unbeaten Crusaders took on the Waratahs in Christchurch. By all accounts it would be a close encounter but someone forgot to tell the hosts who were rampant in what may well be the most clinical display of attacking rugby in the competition’s history. Caleb Ralph bagged a quartet of tries while Aaron Mauger, Leon MacDonald, Marika Vunibaka and Scott Robertson all scored doubles in the 14-try demolition. Up 63-0 at half-time, the final 96-19 scoreline almost seems merciful. It remains the highest score in Super Rugby history.
7. Lomu’s Bull run
The super star of the early Super years, Jonah Lomu and the Blues dominated the first two seasons of the SANZAAR tournament. His unstoppable power was on full display when the Blues dismantled Northern Transvaal at Eden Park in 1996 as he stormed his way through eight Bulls defenders to crash over. The Blues went on to win the inaugural title defeating Natal 45-21 in the final.
Watch it at 2min 4secs here:
6. Sonny’s victory leap
The Chiefs were the perennial strugglers of the New Zealand franchises throughout the 90s and early 2000s. In the early 2010s however, things began to turn. The resurgence culminated in the final against the Sharks at Waikato Stadium in 2012. One of it’s season standouts Sonny Bill Williams put an exclamation mark on the 37-6 scoreline as he cut through the line to score and seal the win. An elated Williams then jumped into the embracing crowd behind the posts as they celebrated a first Super Rugby title after 16 difficult years.
Watch it at 44min here:
5. The Fog Final
The 2006 Super Rugby final will go down as one of the worst sports viewing experiences in history, and it was at no fault of the players. The Crusaders versus Hurricanes could have been a classic with 26 All Blacks across the park, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter leading the the red and blacks while the Hurricanes boasted a Ma’a Nonu/Tana Umaga midfield. The expected fireworks quickly fizzled however as an hour out from kick off a thick blanket of fog played spoil sport and settled over Jade Stadium. It refused to dissipate resulting in a horror spectacle in which even the commentators had no idea what was going on. The hosts won 19-12 with Umaga venting his frustration on Chris Masoe’s head with a handbag later that night.
4. Merts flips the bird
South Africa is never an easy place to visit and a particularly parochial Pretotian crowd in 1999 managed to make one of the calmest heads in the game lose his cool. After nailing a 35 metre drop goal to take the lead and eventually the game, a defiant Andrew Mehrtens ran back, turned to the Loftus Versfeld crowd and raised his two middle fingers. Admittedly the bowl cut he was sporting made the moment slightly less cool.
3. Habana at the hooter
The 2007 final was an all South African affair. After 81 minutes the Sharks led the Bulls 19-13 at Kings Park. Desperate for a miracle, replacement halfback Heinie Adams threw the ball wide to his winger in hope he could spark something. Habana proved why he was regarded as the best winger in the world as he cut inside three Sharks defenders before finding space and exploding to the line. Derick Hougaard slotted the extras and a South African side were champions for the first time.
Watch it at 1min 20secs here:
2. Carlos crushes the Crusaders
The 2003 Blues were sensational and went on an absolute tear on their way to a third title. Perhaps the most special moment came against the old rivals in Christchurch. Already up by three with seconds remaining, Carlos Spencer opted to run in front of his posts and threw an audacious wide ball to a young Joe Rokocoko who broke out of his own 22. The ball eventually found Spencer again who raced towards the line, however he couldn’t resist the opportunity to twist in the knife further. Spencer strode the the corner and casually placed the ball down with his teammates surrounding him. The King then nonchalantly kicked the difficult conversion and made an ‘up yours’ gesture to a furious Canterbury crowd.
1. Cullen goes coast to coast…twice
It was a soul crushing case of de ja vu for the Waratahs in 1997 as the great Christian Cullen consecutively tore the Sydney side to shreds. The first of his full field stunners came in 96 when receiving the ball under his own posts, he out paced the Tah’s line to break clear, beat two more defenders and throw an outrageous dummy to canter the last fifty metres. He would return to haunt the Waratahs yet again a year later at McLean Park, gliding down the sideline in Napier and once again leaving multiple Waratahs in his wake.
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