'I had faith right to the last whistle'
REACTION: The winless Sunwolves succumbed to their eighth loss, but for a time they had a whiff of causing arguably the biggest upset in Super Rugby history against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
"They could have taken a pretty big scalp at one stage," agreed Crusaders coach Scott Robertson after his defending champions escaped with a bonus-point 33-11 victory.
The Sunwolves were down 14-0 after eight minutes, but when rain and hail lashed the ground in a ferocious storm, they kept the Crusaders scoreless for more than 45 minutes while narrowing the gap to 14-11.
It had Robertson on the edge of his seat, watching his side being hassled into an uncharacteristic error-strewn performance.
"I was just trying to clear my mind as to what messages we can get down there," the coach said. "How can we just hold the ball and build some momentum? Because the defence of the Sunwolves was putting a lot of pressure on us."
In the Sunwolves box, coach Jamie Joseph dared to dream until a lapse of concentration turned the game.
"At 14-11 what actually happened is they kicked off, we knocked on, they scrummed and they scored," he said. "These are the sorts of things that really piss you off as a coach."
It was the first of three late tries to save the day for the Crusaders, and a relieved Robertson claimed: "I had faith right to the last whistle."
One thing Robertson does not have faith in is the ability of authorities in Christchurch to deliver the city a new stadium, seven years after a deadly earthquake wrecked the old one.
The Crusaders are still playing in a temporary 18 000-seater stadium and its shortcomings were exposed on Saturday when fans had to endure thunder, lightning, torrential rain and hail during the Sunwolves match.
Robertson said supporters of the reigning Super Rugby champions in the South Island's largest city deserved better than a makeshift facility.
"I am hugely grateful for our people turning up, year after year, to a stadium which is temporary," he said.
"We just want our leaders to be really brave and make a decision that is going to create a future for ourselves and our whole community to be really proud of."
Robertson knows exactly what he wants, something like Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin, where the roof provides comfort for spectators and allows players to show off their silky skills.
"It has got to be someone that shows true leadership, like they did in Dunedin," he said.