For the first few years of the Super Rugby competition, when only 12 teams contested the title and a muilti-million dollar deal with global giants adidas was merely a fantasty at NZRFU headquarters, the five New Zealand franchises played in kits manufactured by CCC.
This vintage Crusaders shirt, from, we believe, the 2000 season, is a classic!
The Kiwi-sides’ shirts in the early days of the Super 12 were a little more flamboyant than they are today, with the designs more closely aligned with the team’s history and nickname. On the shoulder of this shirt you can see the blades of the Crusaders’ sword repeated across the shoulder, while two thick black hoops remain true to the Canterbury Rugby Union’s traditional kit design.
This match-worn jersey, which bares the number 10 on the back, was more than likely worn by Andrew Merhtens during the 2000 campaign, which makes this shirt all the more significant. Merhtens played a vital role in the Grand Final that year as the Crusaders became the first side to win three titles, doing so in consecutive years after wins against the Blues and the Highlanders in the previous seasons.
In Arctic conditions in Canberra the Crusaders were out-classed for much of the match by a Brumbies side that had set the pace during the round robin phase of the competition, finishing the regular season on top of the table.
Merhtens knocked over five penalties on that chilly evening, the last signalling his final act in the game before he left the field with an injury. Ahead by a single point the Crusaders exhibited steely determination and unparralleled discipline to hold on till the final whistle and claim their third consecutive title.