Legacy creates its own advantages
Winning Investec Super Rugby titles, especially those achieved consecutively, have more than on-field returns going for them. It's all about that much-used word 'legacy'. Legacy manifests itself in different ways: there is an expectation of winning, but there is also an understanding of what it takes to win. That remains constant no matter the changing of personnel and the Crusaders demonstrated that in spades in their 43-25 win in Nelson on Saturday evening. Sure, the Waratahs were not at full strength, but neither were the Crusaders. The champions' young guns were on full display and they shone in producing a win that would have done their now-departed old hands proud.
Have the Jaguares found the consistency to claim the title?
Overpowering a disappointing Lions side 38-8 in Buenos Aires, the Jaguares showed growing confidence, especially in being able to turn on the class in what had been a tight game to put the issue beyond doubt. Traditionally they would have relied on their rolling maul to secure a win, and that was still present. But what impressed was their backline cohesion and line-breaking variations that left the Lions defence flummoxed. Centre Matias Moroni revelled in the opportunity to unleash his skills but he was merely representative of the attacking potential the Argentinians can call on. Finalists last year they made an early statement of their intent in 2020.
Do the Hurricanes have the hardest job of all?
Confidence was expressed that the Hurricanes would withstand the upheaval caused by their late change in coaching with John Plumtree moving to All Blacks duty and Jason Holland being promoted. But it was always going to be tough no matter how seamless they attempted to make the transition. That was evident in Cape Town where the Stormers took their chances in claiming a 27-0 win. Two of their tries were from intercepts that have their origins in lack of communication and execution. What was most representative of the job ahead of Holland and his playing leaders is the nil in the scoreline, that is most un-Hurricanelike.
What to do with the Blues?
Up 19-5 at halftime, the Blues were the antithesis of the Crusaders (see above). Whereas the southerners 90 percent of the time demonstrate the ability to lock up a game from that position, the Blues unerringly manage to let success slip. If the Crusaders' legacy is success, the Blues' is a failure to appreciate what it takes to seize their opportunities. It is not just in Leon MacDonald's era, but it has been consistent through the reigns of Tana Umaga, Sir John Kirwan, Pat Lam and David Nucifora. Breaking that cycle of despair is the job MacDonald has. What is incomprehensible is the firepower is there but with the consistency bar set far too low.
Australia – no instant formula
Attempting to turn around performance after the distractions that have dominated their game for the last two seasons, Australia's sides demonstrated it is not going to be a quick fix. The Waratahs had no answer to the Crusaders in Nelson while the Rebels, who were arguably the best of Australia's sides last year, went down 27-36 to the Sunwolves. The Brumbies were pushed hard by the Reds to claim a 27-24 win in a game that represented the only positives of the round for the Australians. The Canberra side went into the season as the unit most likely to emerge at the top of the Conference but the Reds demonstrated that they are on the up and it will be fascinating to see if that can be carried through as the season progresses.