Super Rugby Countdown Day 12: Most successful teams during the Super 12 era
A look at the previous champions of the Super 12 era.
1996 & 1997 Blues
Careful planning and good execution took the Auckland Blues to a clear cut 45 – 21 win at the end of a successful inaugural Super 12 tournament.
The Blues’ aggressive defence stung Natal. Jones, Blowers and Zinzan Brooke, regularly working in pairs, halted many of Natal’s budding attacks.
It was vintage Jones, a performance to rank with some of his mightiest displays of the 1980s, and it won him the man of the match award.The superstar of the backline was Lomu, who blitzed Joubert in scoring his try and caused the visitors endless problems throughout.
The 1997 season ran from 28 February to 31 May 1997, with each team playing all the others once. At the end of the regular season, the top four teams entered the playoff semi finals, with the first placed team playing the fourth and the second placed team playing the third.
The winner of each semi final qualified for the final, which was contested by the Auckland Blues and the ACT Brumbies at Eden Park, Auckland. The Auckland Blues won 23 – 7 to win their second Super 12 title.
1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005 Crusaders
Crusaders competed in the Super 12 competition, which they won five of the 10 years.
In 2002, the Crusaders had a perfect season, winning all 11 games in the main body of the tournament, and then their semi-final and the final.
This was their first season under the leadership of Reuben Thorne, who also captained the All Blacks throughout 2002 and 2003. Richie McCaw then assumed the position and captained the team to its fifth Super 12 championship in 2005
fter the Super 12 became the Super 14 the Crusaders continued with their dominance of Southern Hemisphere rugby by winning the inaugaral Super 14.
Auckland Blues won their first Super 12 final in six years with a tense victory over Canterbury Crusaders at Eden Park
The Blues, champions in 1996 and 97, ensured their season-long dominance was rewarded but the defending champions did not give up their crown without a fight.
The Crusaders led 10-6 at half-time after two tries from hooker Mark Hammett, and outscored the hosts three tries to two overall.
By any interpretation the 2004 Super 12 final will be remembered as an extraordinary affair. Records were broken; 95 points were scored with only nine of them separating the two teams at the end; the whitewash was crossed 13 times; fond farewells were bid. ACT Brumbies 47 Canterbury Crusaders 38