A HISTORIC FIRST: 1996
It was a roll call of superstars for the Blues as they romped to the first ever Super Rugby title with a 45-21 victory over the Natal Sharks at a packed Eden Park on 25 May 1996. The Blues starting line-up featured 14 All Blacks, including bona fide greats of the game in Michael Jones, Zinzan Brooke, Sean Fitzpatrick, Olo Brown and Jonah Lomu. Tearaway openside flanker Andrew Blowers crossed for two tries in the historic win and the Blues backed it up with a second title in 1997.
FOG FINAL: 2006
Although fans in the stands and on television had trouble seeing the action on the pitch due to low-lying sea fog in Christchurch, there is no doubting that the ‘Fog Final’ stands out as one of the most recognisable in Super Rugby history. When thick fog rolled onto Jade Stadium an hour before kick-off, there was talk of postponing the final, but the game went ahead as planned with the Crusaders edging the Hurricanes 19-12 in a classic arm-wrestle (we think!). Crusaders skipper Richie McCaw summed up the mood after the match by saying the conditions were tricky to play in. “I don’t know what the crowd saw because it was tough out here,” McCaw said.
SEVENTH HEAVEN: 2008
The Crusaders seventh Super Rugby title in 2008 signaled an end of an era for the side that had dominated the opening decade of Super Rugby. It would be the last title for all-time greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter and begin a title-drought which wouldn’t be snapped until 2017. The Waratahs outscored the Crusaders 2-1 in tries but a drop goal by Dan Carter proved crucial in the Crusaders 20-12 victory. The grand final victory was also the Crusaders last title success at their spiritual home of Lancaster Park (AKA Jade Stadium and AMI Stadium) as the ground was irreparably damaged during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
CHIEFS BREAK THROUGH: 2012
The sight of Sonny Bill Williams leaping into the crowd after scoring in the 77th minute is one of the defining images in Super Rugby finals history. SBW’s jubilation summed up the feeling of the Chief’s faithful who had waited 16 years for their side to taste success. They did it in style too, thumping the Sharks 37-6 with Liam Messam being named man of the match.
HIGHLANDERS BREAK DROUGHT: 2015
It took 20 years for the Highlanders to win their first title and like the Chiefs it was worth the wait. The Highlanders had a tough road to the final, having to beat the Chiefs in a qualifying final before taking out the Waratahs away from home in a semifinal. They came up against a rampant Hurricanes team in the final who had blown away the competition in 2015. The Highlanders put on an epic defensive display to oust the home side 21-14 and claim the crown for the very first time.