Ahead of Saturday night’s mouth-watering Super Rugby semi between the Crusaders and Chiefs in Christchurch, Wind-back Wednesday relives the franchises back-to-back playoffs classics in 2012-13.
The Chiefs were still chasing their first title in 2012, but were bolstered by the arrival of Sonny Bill Williams, Aaron Cruden and Brodie Retallick, along with the new coaching team of Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith.
The Crusaders – Super Rugby’s most successful team – were after their first title since 2008, while they had a loss to the Reds in the previous year’s final to atone for.
The Kiwi heavyweights claimed an away win apiece during the regular season, before meeting again on the penultimate weekend of the competition at Waikato Stadium.
An on-fire SBW burned his former Crusaders teammates to help set up a 17-6 lead for the Chiefs, but the visitors struck back through Ryan Crotty just before halftime.
Scoring was restricted to penalty goals during the second half, with the Chiefs heading into the final five minutes with a 20-17 advantage. All Blacks great Dan Carter missed an opportunity to level the scores from 48 metres out, while the Chiefs survived an excruciating 22 phases of Crusaders attack before the final whistle blew.
The Chiefs went on to crush the Sharks 37-6 in the following week’s final.
The keen rivals met again in the 2013 semi-final at the same venue – and they produced an equally absorbing encounter.
The Crusaders led 9-6, before the Chiefs scored the first try through Lelia Masaga in the 51st minute.
An intercept try to Cruden gave the home side a commanding 20-9 lead, but the Crusaders fought back with a try to Israel Dagg and a Carter penalty, trimming the gap to one point.
Carter tried a match-winning drop goal with four minutes left but sprayed it wide, allowing the Chiefs to advance to their second straight final, where they defended their crown with a 27-22 defeat of the Brumbies.