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Crusaders perform a spine tingling haka at Páirc Uí Chaoimh against Munster

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Saturday Feb 3, 2024

Super Rugby’s most successful franchise, the Crusaders, are rightly regarded as the pinnacle of provincial rugby.

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Winning 12 Super Rugby titles plus 2 Super Rugby Aotearoa titles see’s the side from Christchurch sit in a league of their own when it comes to the Southern Hemisphere’s elite provincial rugby competition.

Garnering a reputation as a ruthlessly effective side with a seemingly undefeatable aura, the Crusaders are often spoken about in hushed tones in the northern hemisphere.

For years the debate has raged, just how would they fare against the elite club and provincial sides in Europe.

From one island on the end of the earth to another island in the northern Atlantic, Munster Rugby are often spoken of in a similar vein to the Crusaders.

Although not quite as successful in the trophy department, the two-time Heineken Cup winners and reigning URC champions have built a mystique around their brand.

Claiming the first-ever win against New Zealand’s All Blacks by an Irish side on October 31st 1978, Munster have since gone on to defeat the Wallabies in 1992 whilst facing several international touring teams over the years.

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For what felt like an eternity, Munster simply did not lose at their home ground of Thomond Park in Limerick. To win, there would take a herculean effort when Munster was truly in their pomp in the mid-2000s.

Although the likes of local rivals Leinster and some of European Rugby’s heavyweights, namely Toulouse, have cracked the code to winning in Limerick, there is no doubt that Thomond Park is still a formidable fortress.

Whilst Thomond Park is now firmly the regular home of Munster Rugby, the side represents far more than just Limerick, with their squad consisting of players from all corners of the province.

Clearly aware of this fact, Munster Rugby have made a concerted effort to take more fixtures to Munster’s biggest city Cork.

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Usually, these matches would take place at Musgrave Park, but for special occasions, they have now begun to utilise the Gaelic Games strong hold Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Playing against a South African ‘A’ side last year, Munster would defeat their fancied South African opponents in what proved to be a springboard for a run to the URC title that would see them defeat Glasgow, Leinster and the DHL Stormers away from home in one of the greatest runs in the province’s history.

Thus, when the iconic Crusaders agreed to a mid-season fixture, there could only be one venue to host them.

Paying their respects to their hosts, the Crusaders put on an immensely passionate haka display that left the Munster fans in awe and served as a stark reminder that they were witnessing a piece of rugby history.

Munster would go on to win the fixture 21 – 19 as they etched another piece of history into their remarkable brand.

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