Scott Robertson pleads for Christchurch to build Covered Stadium
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 21: Mitchell Drummond (L) of the Crusaders kicks the ball during the round 10 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Sunwolves at AMI Stadium on April 21, 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images for SUNWOLVES)

After his side had evaded the Sunwolves 33-11 in their Super Rugby Week 10 fixture, Scott Robertson spoke his mind. On a night where the rain, hail and thunder made his Crusaders play within themselves [due to conditions] head coach Scott Robertson plead to the Christchurch City Council to build a new covered, multi-use Stadium.

For any fans of rugby, sometimes the biggest inhibitor, is weather. Most are hardy. They are loyal too, and the majority will withstand most conditions. On Saturday night at AMI Stadium, the impact of hail and freezing cold rain altered the outcome of the Crusaders v Sunwolves fixture. It meant that kicking and forward play became more valid, rather than to play it ‘wide and fast’.

A shame, and a fact that Canterbury fans have become all too used to. That is because of conditions; weather related at some times in the South Island of New Zealand. But also due to the delays in the Christchurch City Council decisions and planning on a highly debated new covered, multi-use Stadium. What is there now, has become ‘not fit for purpose’ in many peoples eyes (including the coach).

Last night, Scott Robertson spoke the words that Crusaders fans have felt for a long time. “I’m hugely grateful for the people turning up, year after year, into a stadium that was meant to be temporary. What we [the Crusaders] do on the field is world class, I think we ought do something world class off of it….and it’s got to have a roof!”

Scott Robertson pleads for Christchurch to build Covered Stadium

When the 2011 Earthquake hit the South Island, many facilities were affected. Primarily, infrastructure was damaged. Those essential services have now been replaced. And with that, a temporary rugby ground was erected, to replace the badly damaged Jade Stadium.

Now, after seven years of talk, Scott Robertson is convinced the time for talk is over. He told Brian Ashby of NZME “We’ve got a chance to do something special. It’s too good a chance, and the decision doesn’t have to be [centered on] now on the money. The money will take care of itself over a long period of time. And someone has to show some true leadership.”

Head Coach Scott Robertson of the Crusaders looks on prior to a Super Rugby match at AMI Stadium, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Robertson then made an example of the Dunedin covered stadium. Replacing the much loved Carisbrook Stadium, it was derided for the grandiose cost, but is now the prime example of how a civic vision that is repaying the city with a surface that the Crusaders coach enjoys visiting.

“There’s a lot of people who said then ‘do we need it?’ and now, we need it. Future proof it;” (multi purpose use) and Robertson continued his impassioned plea “back yourselves, we’ll make the money back. I trust our brave leaders to make the right decision.

“And I’m really proud of the people who turned out tonight.”

Scott Robertson’ impassioned plea to make a Brave decision now!

His views count. As does the view of New Zealand Rugby. The national body had offered the city test matches, including the 2016 Rugby Championship fixture. But the city could not secure an British and Irish Lions test – only hosting a midweek game. The stadium also hosted an quarter-final of the 2017 Super Rugby season. However, on that night the stadium was flooded in a deluge, with the facilities only just coping (see below). Those factors; and low capacity, now preclude the All Blacks from scheduling any of their 2018 test matches in Christchurch.

A steward works to dry the stands due to heavy rainfall prior to the Super Rugby Quarter Final match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders at AMI Stadium. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Scenes like this will have been repeated in Christchurch on Saturday evening, so the frustration of Robertson and the Canterbury fanbase must be listened to. As much as to have matches where the two teams can compete evenly on. But also, to showcase the sport.

SANZAAR and New Zealand Rugby can influence Council planning

While the City Council has obligations for public space and civil projects, the consideration of an replacement for Jade Stadium has been laboured. The insurance settlement has been made, so some funds are available. The current Labour government has also committed to the project. Designs have been made to date, with a multi-use facility agreed by all as the best outcome.

If an covered stadium is ever going to happen, the voice of Scott Robertson and the demands of residents, must carry weight.

But time is now passing – as are opportunities. The Dunedin Forsyth-Barr Stadium, considered the best surface and ground to play open, running rugby, also hosts many other events. Concerts, large gatherings and conventions – opportunities that Christchurch cannot yet host. So the Council is missing out. And in missing out on International test matches.

That is where NZR and SANZAAR; the governing body of The Rugby Championship and Super Rugby competitions, holds an influence. Not in finacila [necessarily] but in their desire to return rugby to the city. And in a facility that promotes the game, and allows fans to enjoy the match ‘in any conditions’.

Sunwolves bring resilience but fall to Crusaders

Local politics aside, the match turned out to be more of a challenge than expected. And that will have been due to the conditions, but also that the ‘Wolves coaching staff are much more developed. In their sturdy defence, they showed the influence of Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown.

It was great for the Crusaders to see Owen Franks and Israel Dagg back. ‘Saders fans are glad, as too are All Black selectors. That was a positive – the negative was to lose back-up hooker Ben Funnell and number eight Tom Sanders. Not what Robertson needs, considering that Kieran Read is unlikely to be returning within the next month.

“Once we nailed our kicking game and got some good strong carries, and did the basics well, we showed what we could do. I had faith right to the last whistle.” Scott Robertson would have been more pleased to collect a bonus point win. They sit at the top of the NZ conference; although the Hurricanes and Highlanders both have a game in hand.

Next week the Crusaders cross the Tasman, to engage with the ACT BRumbies. If Sam Whitelock can take a group of first-pick players to Canberra, then fans must be confident that another positive step can be made. If the side of the future can return home to play in the comfort of a covered stadium, then the most successful franchise in Super Rugby history may see that record grow further.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images


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