It’s a year of massive upheaval for the Crusaders. With the departure of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw to Racing Metro and flying helicopters respectively, two players who have been key components of the storied Canterbury franchise on and off the field for over a decade will have to be replaced somehow. How they’ll cope with it, we can’t say, but it’s definitely a new era – and what better way to kick off a chapter in Crusaders history than their first new jersey in two seasons…
The Adidas two-year jersey cycle was particularly cruel for Crusaders fans. After consistently having some of the nicest, classiest jerseys in all of Super Rugby, 2014 saw them lumbered with some of the ugliest jerseys on the planet for two whole years. The chainmail pattern looked tacky as hell, and had the the unfortunate side-effect of making the home shirt look more pink than red at a distance. It was pretty dire.
Thankfully, we never, ever have to see those hideous things again, and in its place we have a pair of new jerseys that are not only much, much cooler, but they’re also perhaps the most striking jerseys the Crusaders have ever worn.
Red and black have always been the Crusaders colours – it’s a lovely combo and almost impossible (almost!) to get wrong. This year however, there’s a definite change in tack. For the last few years, the red has been increasingly more prominent, with the black reduced gradually reducing until we got to last year, where the only plain black bit of the shirt was the collar. Adidas clearly thought it was time for a change.
This year’s jersey pretty much splits it 50/50 – it’s the most black on a Crusaders jersey since 2010, and this perhaps surpasses even that. The shoulders and chest are solid black, while the bottom half of the jersey starts out solid red, gradually fading up into the black, with a knight on horseback subtle silhouetted onto the fade. It looks absolutely badass, especially when combined with the red shoulder stripes and solid red side-panels, and looks even more impressive paired with the new all-red shorts.
Part of the reason we were so scathing about last year’s chainmail look was because it pushed any misgivings about the connotations of the team name (bluntly, the whole ‘European blokes rampaging around the middle east stabbing folk and nicking stuff’ thing) right to the forefront of of the jersey and our minds. You might wonder why we’re not equally scathing about the inclusion of a knight on a horse with a sword this time. Well, firstly, yes it does seem a little tone deaf, especially in the current tense climate of international politics, but it feels less subtle and tacky than last year.
Let’s face it, unlike last year, it also doesn’t look utterly shit, which definitely helps us ignore any misgivings we might have.
After two years in shirts we’d happily consign to the seventh circle of rugby jersey hell for all eternity, it’s a huge relief to see the Crusaders back in something more befitting of a massive successful club. It’s modern, it’s bold, it’s definitely going to divide opinion among the traditionalists, and it’s absolutely perfect for the new era of the franchise.