Although the Crusaders haven’t had the biggest off-season, when you look through the squad you realise that there really aren’t a lot of places that need improvement. Wyatt Crockett and Seta Tamanivalu are the biggest losses – retiring from Super Rugby and heading to France, respectively, but the Crusaders already have so much depth and there are ample players ready to step up in their absence.
With Crockett gone, the Crusaders can still field two All Blacks looseheads in the form of Joe Moody and Tim Perry. The tighhead side of the scrum is equally as strong with Owen Franks and Michael Alaalatoa. Traditionally, the Crusaders have had the strongest tight five of the New Zealand squads and it looks like nothing has changed there with All Blacks Codie Taylor, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett and Luke Romano all returning from 2018.
Heiden Bedwell-Curtis and Pete Samu have left the Crusaders for other Super Rugby franchises, but once again the squad has so much depth that neither of these losses will significantly impact the quality lineup the team can field. Ethan Blackadder looks destined for great things and cult figure Whetu Douglas has returned from a short stint in Italy to back up the likes of Tom Sanders, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd and Kieran Read.
Seasoned pro Mike Delany has been let go for 2019 – evidently the Crusaders coaches are comfortable that Richie Mo’unga and Mitchell Hunt bring enough experience to the squad in order to sign new All Black Brett Cameron. Whether Cameron is now ahead of Hunt in the eyes of coach Scott Robertson is up in the air, given how well Hunt has performed for the Crusaders in the past (remember that drop goal against the Highlanders in 2017?).
Will Jordan is not a new signing for the Crusaders, but injury prevented him from taking the field in 2018. He will be competing for game time in the outside backs with the more experienced George Bridge, Israel Dagg, David Havili and Manasa Mataele as well as new signing Leicester Fainga’anuku – but his future is bright.
Biggest victory – The return of Whetu Douglas is a boon, even if his playtime may be restricted given the depth of the Crusaders’ loose forwards.
Biggest failure – It’s hard to see anything to criticise. It hasn’t been a very exciting offseason for the Crusaders, but that’s what happens when your team is already oozing talent.