Door ajar for rivals — even Highlanders

The Crusaders will donate $1000 to the Rural Aid’s Disaster Recovery Fund for every try they...
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The Crusaders’ surprise defeat to the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Saturday has provided a rare offering — hope.

Hope that the team so widely loved and adored outside Canterbury can make a race of what was previously thought a fait accompli.

There is nothing like continuity. It is comforting and reassuring when the same team wins every year, right?

Despite the loss, the Crusaders (19 points) still lead the competition standings with four wins from five games. They are strong favourites but have left the door ajar.

Hope, too, for the Blues (17 points). They have been masquerading as a title contender this season.

They have played an extra game, though, and limped to a narrow win against the winless Chiefs in their most recent encounter.

But none of that will discourage the national networks which are infatuated with the team based on the amount of air time the franchise is assigned each and every week regardless of results.

Hope for the Hurricanes — perhaps. They did the unthinkable and inflicted the Crusaders’ first Super Rugby loss at home in four years.

They edged out the Blues a week earlier and have won their past four games in a row.

The Hurricanes (16 points), like the Blues, have also played an extra game.

But, most importantly, there is hope for the Highlanders (10 points). The Dunedin-based team trails the Crusaders by nine points but can still overhaul the competition front-runner

The unheralded Highlanders can reach a maximum of 25 points which, if you punch a few numbers into a calculator, could be enough to claim the title.

There is hope, too, for the Chiefs (five points). Hope they might win at least one game in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Their match against the Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday would be a good place to start.

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