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For the first time we have two South African teams playing in South Africa in the final – a first.

It’s strange not to see the Crusaders in this year’s Super final – a bit like not seeing the Blue Bulls in the final of the Currie Cup. After a feeble start to Super rugby they have dominated it and would probably have continued to do so but for a poor finish to their Super 14 campaign this year.

We give some details of Super rugby finals with a little bit about their forerunners.

In the beginning there were six. In 1986 New Zealand started the AGC South Pacific Championship. It started quietly, as most things do in the rugby’s conservative world. The competition was dominated by Auckland.

Super Six winners

1986: Auckland
1987: Auckland and Canterbury
1988: Auckland
1989: Auckland
1990: Auckland
1991: No competition
1992: Queensland

South Africa was back in international rugby in 1992 and the Super 6 became the Super 10 in 1993. The ten teams in 1993 were Western Samoa, Queensland, Otago, Auckland and Natal in Pool A, and Waikato, North Harbour, Transvaal, Northern Transvaal and New South Wales in Pool B. In the final Transvaal beat Auckland 20-17 at Ellis Park.

Apart from Western Samoa the teams taking part were provincial teams, determined in the case of New Zealand and South Africa by standings in the provincial championship

In 1994 Eastern Province replaced Northern Transvaal. This time Queensland won, beating Natal in the final. Natal got there with four free points when New South Wales decided Durban was too dangerous a place and refused to travel there, shades of Wales and Scotland in 1973 when they refused to go to Ireland.

Queensland won again in 1995 when they thrashed Transvaal.

Super 10 winners

1993: Transvaal
1994: Queensland
1995: Queensland

The Super 12 was more than a change in numbers and a new organisation was formed called SANZAR, made up of the three unions South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and an R for rugby. It would become more and more powerful in rugby, even though it had no authority over its constituent bodies. It organised the Super 12 – five from New Zealand, four from Australia and three from Australia. The 1996 Super 12 was rugby’s first professional competition.

New Zealand quickly went for regional teams and Australia’s third province, Canberra, became an interprovincial body. Eventually South Africa also went in for regional teams, but the competition remained dominated by New Zealand teams. There were no pools in this system which meant a great deal of travelling for the teams. This was especially hard on South African teams who set off for a six-week tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The competition received enormous coverage and was accompanied by much glitter and razzmatazz.

The teams in the first Super 12 were Natal, Western Province, Waikato, Canterbury, Otago, Queensland, ACT, Transvaal, Wellington, Northern Transvaal, New South Wales and Auckland.

Later the teams would acquire different names and their gear changed regularly, a long was from rugby’s normal conservatism. In fact the Super 12 was not for the conservative.

In 1999 the teams in the Super 12 were the Sharks, Northern Bulls, Stormers, Cats, Auckland Blues, Wellington Hurricanes, Canterbury Crusaders, Otago Highlanders, ACT Brumbies, Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs.

The teams have since become single-named.

Super 12 winners

1996: Auckland
1997: Auckland Blues
1998: Canterbury Crusaders
1999: Canterbury Crusaders
2000: Crusaders
2001: Brumbies
2002: Crusaders
2003: Blues
2004: Brumbies
2005: Crusaders

In 2006 the Super 12 grew into the Super 14 with an additional team from Australia – the Western Force – and an additional team from South Africa – the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs who split from their uncomfortable alliance with the Cats, based in Johannesburg,

Super 12 Finals:

1996: Auckland vs Natal, 45-21 at Eden Park on 25 May


Natal had a great win over Queensland in Brisbane and flew over to Auckland with high hopes. Jonah Lomu soon brought them bumping down to earth, and in no time Auckland were ahead 20-3. Back came Natal to 20-16 but Auckland then made the game safe.

Scorers:

For Auckland:
Tries:
Blowers 2, Lomu, Spencer, Clarke, Riechelmann
Cons: Cashmore 3
Pens: Cashmore 3

For Natal:
Tries:
Joubert, Small
Con: Honiball
Pens: Honiball 3

Teams:

Auckland:
Adrian Cashmore, Jonah Lomu, Johnny Ngauamo, Eroni Clarke, Joeli Vidiri, Carlos Spencer, Ofisa Tonu’u, Zinzan Brooke (captain), Michael Jones, Andrew Blowers, Charles Reichelmann, Robin Brooke, Craig Dowd, Sean Fitzpatrick, Olo Brown.

Natal: Andre Joubert, James Small, Jeremy Thomson, Dick Muir, Cabous van der Westhuizen, Henry Honiball, Kevin Putt, Gary Teichmann (captain),Wayne Fyvie, Wickus van Heerden, Stephen Atherton, Mark Andrews, Ollie le Roux, John Allan, Adrian Garvey

Referee: Wayne Erickson (Australia)

1997: Auckland Blues vs ACT Brumbies, 23-7 at Eden Park on 31 May 1997

The rains came down and the Brumbies forwards stood up to the powerful Auckland pack which had only one player who was not an All Black. The scoreline looks comfortable for Auckland, the favourites, who deserved to win, but in the end it was only by two tries to one and Michael Jones’s had intercepted to score one of them.

Scorers

For Auckland Blues:
Tries:
Dowd, Michael Jones
Cons: Cashmore 2
Pens: Cashmore 3

For ACT Brumbies:
Try:
Roff
Con: Roff

Teams:

Auckland Blues:
Adrian Cashmore, Brian Lima, Eroni Clarke, Lee Stensness, Joeli Vidiri, Carlos Spencer, Ofisa Tonu’u, Zinzan Brooke (captain), Michael Jones, Mark Carter, Robin Brooke, Leo Lafaiali’i, Craig Dowd, Sean Fitzpatrick, Olo Brown.

ACT Brumbies: Stephen Larkham, Mitch Hardy, James Holbeck, Pat Howard, Joe Roff, David Knox, George Gregan, Troy Coker, Brett Robinson (captain), Owen Finegan, John Langford, David Giffin, Patricio Noriega, Marco Caputo, Ewen McKenzie .

Referee: Tappe Henning (South Africa)

1998: Canterbury Crusaders vs Auckland Blues, 20-13 at Eden Park on 30 May 1998

The rise of the Crusaders was remarkable. After four matches Canterbury were last on the table. They scraped past Natal at home (four tries for, five against). Auckland had ended the pre-knock-out rounds top and so had a home final.

At half-time the score was 3-0 to Canterbury. In the second half the Blues got ahead 10-3, but Canterbury came back to level the scores. Five minutes from the end the score was 3-all. Andrew Mehrtens chipped, the ball eluded two Auckland defenders and James Kerr flopped onto it for a strange try.

Scorers

For Canterbury Crusaders:
Tries:
Maxwell, Kerr
Cons: Mehrtens 2
Pens: Mehrtens 2

For Auckland Blues:
Try:
Christian
Con: Cashmore
Pen: Cashmore
Drop: Cashmore

Teams:

Canterbury Crusaders:
Leon MacDonald, James Kerr, Daryl Gibson, Caleb Ralph, Afato So’oalo, Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall, Steve Surridge, Reuben Thorne, Scott Robertson, Norm Maxwell, Todd Blackadder (captain), Greg Somerville, Mark Hammett, Greg Feek

Auckland Blues: Doug Howlett, Marc Ellis, Rua Tipoki, Craig Innes, Joeli Vidiri, Carlos Spencer, Mark Robinson, Xavier Rush, Mark Carter, Justin Collins, Glen Taylor, Charles Riechelmann, Craig Dowd (captain), Paul Mitchell, Jason Barrell.

Referee: Paddy O’Brien (New Zealand)

1999: Canterbury Crusaders vs Otago Highlanders, 24-19 at Carisbrook on 20 May 1999


For the third year in succession both finalists were New Zealand teams. For the second year in a row Canterbury Crusaders played away from home and won and for the second year in a row the favourites lost. This year the final was an all-South Island affair.

Canterbury Crusaders only just made it to the semi-final and then won well against Queensland in Brisbane while Otago Highlanders thrashed the Stormers in Cape Town to get into the final.

It was the best Super 12 final to date and in the end the issue was decided by the boot of Andrew Mehrtens. The Highlanders led 14-9 at half-time after Brian Lima had started a counterattack and finished it off a short pass from Byron Kelleher. The Crusaders went ahead in the second half with two excellent tries, first when Daryl Gibson took a short pass from Mehrtens to score and then a brilliant effort by Afato So’oalo who beat Lima and then won a chip-and-chase to score. This made the score 21-14. Mehrtens added a drop and when Isitolo Maka scored three minutes from the end the match was, to all intents and purposes, won.

Scorers

For Canterbury Crusaders:
Tries: Gibson, So’oalo
Con: Mehrtens
Drop: Mehrtens
Pens: Mehrtens 3

For Otago Highlanders:
Tries: Lima, Maka;
Drop: Laney
Pens: Brown 2

Teams:

Canterbury Crusaders:
Leon MacDonald, Caleb Ralph, Daryl Gibson, Norm Berryman ,Afato So’oalo, Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall, Steve Surridge, Reuben Thorne, Angus Gardiner, Norm Maxwell, Todd Blackadder (captain), Greg Feek, Mark Hammett, Greg Somerville

Otago Highlanders: Jeff Wilson, Brendan Laney, Pita Alatini, Romi Ropati, Brian Lima, Tony Brown, Byron Kelleher, Isitolo Maka, Taine Randell (captain), Josh Kronfeld, Brendon Timmins, John Blaikie, Kees Meeuws, Anton Oliver, Carl Hoeft.

Referee: Andr’ Watson (South Africa)

2000: Crusaders vs Brumbies, 20-19 at Bruce Stadium, 27 May 2000

The Brumbies had ended top of the table with the Crusaders second. That meant a Canberra final after they had each demolished the hopes of their opponents in the semi-finals.

Bruce Stadium was freezing for this night final. Andrew Mehrtens matched the weather with his icy nerve. Where Stirling Mortlock missed four out of nine, Mehrtens goaled five out of six, including the match-winning penalty at the dying of the match.

Scorers

For Crusaders:
Try:
Cribb
Pens: Mehrtens 5

For Brumbies:
Try:
Smith
Con: Mortlock
Pens: Mortlock 4

Teams:

Brumbies:
Andrew Walker, Joe Roff, Rod Kafer, Stirling Mortlock, Mark Bartholomeusz, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan, Jim Williams, Ipolito Fenukitau, Brett Robinson (captain), Justin Harrison, David Giffin, Patricio Noriega, Jeremy Paul, Bill Young.

Canterbury Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Caleb Ralph, Daryl Gibson, Mark Robinson, Marika Vunibaka, Andrew Mehrtens, Ben Hurst, Ron Cribb, Reuben Thorne, Scott Robertson 5 Norm Maxwell, Todd Blackadder (captain), Greg Feek, Mark Hammett, Greg Somerville

Referee: Andr’ Watson (South Africa)

2001: Brumbies vs Sharks, 30-6 at Bruce Stadium on 19 May 2001

The Brumbies were top, the Sharks second. So the final was in Canberra.

This was the first time a non-New Zealand team had won the Super 12, the first time no New Zealand team had made the semi-final.

The Sharks had beaten the Brumbies in the home matches but were well beaten in the second half of the final. After missing six kicks at goal in the first half, the Sharks were still level at 6-all at half-time. The Brumbies galloped away with the second half.

Scorers

For Brumbies:
Tries:
Roff 2, Giffin
Cons: Walker 3
Pens: Walker 5

For Sharks:
Pens: James 2

Teams:

Brumbies:
Andrew Walker, Joe Roff, James Holbeck, Rod Kafer, Graeme Bond, Steve Larkham, George Gregan (captain), Jim Williams, George Smith, Peter Ryan, Justin Harrison, David Giffin, Ben Darwin, Jeremy Paul, Bill Young

Sharks: Ricardo Loubscher, Justin Swart, Trevor Halstead, Deon Kayser, Stefan Terblanche, Butch James, Craig Davidson, AJ Venter, Charl van Rensburg, Warren Britz, Albert van den Berg, Mark Andrews (captain), Ollie le Roux, John Smit, Etienne Fynn.

Referee: Paddy O’Brien (New Zealand)

2002: Crusaders vs Brumbies, 31-13 at Jade Stadium, 25 May 2002

It was the perfect Super 12 for the Crusaders. They played 13 and won 13. They scored 30 points or more in every one of the 13 matches. They were by some way the best side in the 2002 Super 12. In the last round of the league they played the second-placed Waratahs and beat them 96-19

The margin of victory in the final is a big one but with seven minutes to play they led just 14-13, but then Caleb Ralph scored two tries in three minutes.

Scorers

For Crusaders:
Tries:
Ralph 2, Vunibaka
Cons: Mehrtens 2
Drop: Mehrtens
Pens: Mehrtens 3

For Brumbies:
Try:
Walker
Con: Walker
Pens: Walker 2

Teams:

Brumbies:
Mark Bartholomeusz, Graeme Bond, Stirling Mortlock, Pat Howard, Andrew Walker, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan, Scott Fava, George Smith, Owen Finegan, Justin Harrison, Daniel Vickerman, Ben Darwin, Jeremy Paul, Bill Young.

Canterbury Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Marika Vunibaka, Mark Robinson, Aaron Mauger, Caleb Ralph, Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall, Scott Robertson, Richie McCaw, Reuben Thorne (captain), Norm Maxwell, Chris Jack, Greg Feek, Mark Hammett, Greg Somerville

Referee: Andr’ Watson (South Africa)

2003: Blues vs Crusaders, 21-17 at Eden Park, 24 May 2003

The Crusaders did not win! That seems astonishing given their magnificent record in Super 12 finals, but for the second year in a row they did not hoist the trophy in triumph.

Missing from most of the Crusaders’ campaign was veteran points’ machine Andrew Mehrtens. He was largely displaced by young Daniel Carter.

In the end kicking counted. The Crusaders, who led 10-6 at half-time, scored three tries to two but lost to Carlos Spencer’s boot. Mehrtens came on as a replacement for Marika Vunibaka just before half-time but managed only a single conversion,

Scorers

For Blues:
Tries:
Howlett, Braid
Con: Spencer
Pens: Spencer 3

For Crusaders:
Tries: Hammett 2, Ralph
Con: Mehrtens

Teams:

Blues:
Doug Howlett, Rico Gear, Mils Muliaina, Sam Tuitupou, Joe Rokocoko, Carlos Spencer, David Gibson, Xavier Rush (captain), Daniel Braid, Justin Collins, Ali Williams, Angus MacDonald, Kees Meeuws, Keven Mealamu, Deacon Manu.
Replacements: Derren Witcombe, Tony Woodcock, Bradley Mika , Mose Tuiali’i, Craig McGrath, Orene Ai’i, Lee Stensness.

Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Marika Vunibaka, Caleb Ralph, Daniel Carter, Joe Maddock, Aaron Mauger, Justin Marshall, Scott Robertson, Richard McCaw, Reuben Thorne (captain), Chris Jack, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Mark Hammett, David Hewett.
Replacements: Slade McFarland, Greg Feek, Sam Broomhall, Johnny Leo’o, Ben Hurst. Andrew Mehrtens, Scott Hamilton

Referee: Andr’ Watson (South Africa)

2004: Brumbies vs Crusdares, 47-38 at Canberra Stadium, 22 May 2004

It was a brilliant final with 13 tries. The number of tries says it all. Numerous match, team and individual records were broken.

After just 18 minutes the Brumbies led an incredible 33-0 after scoring five brilliant tries. By half-time it was 33-14, and even though the proud Crusaders fought back they could not overall the energetic Brumbies.

Scorers

For Brumbies:
Tries:
Joe Roff 2, Mark Gerrard 3, Matt Giteau, Jeremy Paul
Cons: Joe Roff 6

For Crusaders:
Tries:
Aaron Mauger, Daniel Carter, Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn, Chris King, Casey Laulala
Cons: Daniel Carter 4

Teams:

Brumbies:
Joe Roff, Mark Gerrard, Joel Wilson, Matt Giteau, Clyde Rathbone, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan, Scott Fava, George Smith, Owen Finegan (captain), Radike Samo, Mark Chisholm, 3 Nic Henderson, Jeremy Paul, Bill Young
Replacements: David Palavi, Guy Shepherdson, David Giffin, Jone Tawake, Matt Henjak, Lenny Beckett, Mark Bartholomeusz

Crusaders: Ben Blair, Marika Vunibaka, Aaron Mauger, Daniel Carter, Marika Vunibaka, Cameron McIntyre, Justin Marshall, Sam Broomhall, Reuben Thorne (captain), Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn, Chris Jack, 3 Greg Somerville, Tone Kopelani, David Hewett.
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Chris King, Ross Filipo, Johnny Leo’o, Andrew Mehrtens, Jamie Nutbrown, Casey Laulala.

Referee: Andr’ Watson (South Africa)

2005: Crusaders vs Waratahs, 35-25 at Jade Stadium

The laughing Crusaders were simply at their best, running free, supporting one another and scoring tries. At half-time they led only 14-6 but that soon grew to 35-6 before three late tries made the willing Waratahs look more competitive.

It was the 690th and last Super 12 match of all time as SANZAR expanded the competition to the Super 14.

Not only did the Crusaders win the last ever Super 12 tournament, but they have won as many titles in the past 10 years (five) as all other 11 teams put together. The other five titles went to the Blues (three) and the Brumbies (two).

Scorers

For Crusaders:
Tries:
Hamilton, MacDonald, Hewett, Ralph
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 2
Drop: Mauger

For Waratahs:
Tries: Rogers 2, Waugh
Cons: Hewat, Rogers
Pens: Hewat 2

Teams:

Crusaders:
Leon MacDonald, Rico Gear, Caleb Ralph, Aaron Mauger, Scott Hamilton, Daniel Carter, Justin Marshall, Mose Tuiali’i, Richie McCaw (captain), Reuben Thorne, Ross Filipo, Chris Jack, Greg Somerville, Corey Flynn, Dave Hewett.
Replacements: Tone Kopelani, Campbell Johnstone, Sam Broomhall, Johnny Leo’o, Jamie Nutbrown, Andrew Mehrtens, Casey Laulala.

Waratahs: Mat Rogers, Peter Hewat, Morgan Turinui, Nathan Grey, Lote Tuqiri, Lachlan MacKay, Chris Whitaker (captain), David Lyons, Phil Waugh, Rocky Elsom, Daniel Vickerman, Justin Harrison, Alastair Baxter, Brendan Cannon, Matt Dunning.
Replacements: Adam Freier, Gareth Hardy, Alex Kanaar, Stephen Hoiles, Chris O’Young, Shaun Berne, Cameron Shepherd.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

2006: Crusaders vs Hurricanes, 19-12 at Jade Stadium, 27 May 2006

It was an historic final – the first Super 14 final. It was also an eerie final as a fog settled over Jade Sgtadium jyust before the stafrt of the match. Spooky players flitted in and out of partial view and at the m,ost the crowd noise rose to a murmur.

The fog was about all that made the match memorable. There was just one try. From a scrum five metres from the Hurricanes’ line, Kevin Senio gave immediately to Dan Carter. Casey Laulala cut back onto Carter’s inside and took the switched pass. He was running straight, got past sprawling Piri Weepu and was over near the posts in Chris Masoe’s tackle. Carter converted.

Scorers

For the Crusaders:
Try:
Laulala
Con: Carter
Pens: Carter 4

For the Hurricanes:
Pens: Weepu, Holwell, Gopperth 2

Teams:

Crusaders:
15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Kevin Senio, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richard McCaw (captain), 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Tone Kopelani, 17 Campbell Johnstone, 18 Johnny Leo’o, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Stephen Brett, 21 Cameron McIntyre, 22 Caleb Ralph

15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Lome Fa’atau, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Shannon Paku, 10 David Holwell, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So’oialo (captain), 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Paul Tito, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Luke Mahoney, 17 Joe McDonnell, 18 Luke Andrews, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Brendan Haami, 21 Jimmy Gopperth, 22 Tamati Ellison

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

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