Digby Ioane quits Crusaders

Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson said Ioane and the Crusaders had reached a mutual decision that staying in Japan was best for the 32-year-old.

Ioane, who earned 35 caps for Australia from 2007 to 2013, played just three Super Rugby games for the Crusaders in 2017, scoring one try against the Western Force.

His season was hampered by hand and hamstring injuries and he was unable to win back his place with Seta Tamanivalu and George Bridge in good form on the wings. 

Crusaders not hot on Fiji

Exactly where the Super Rugby champions will play their matches in 2018 has yet to be made public, although chief executive Hamish Riach has already declared the competition schedule, released by Sanzaar last week, isn't conducive to his club transferring a fixture to the Fijian capital of Suva.

When the Chiefs transferred their "home" games against the Crusaders to Suva for the last two years, they did so in the knowledge that the Fijian government would invest around $1.6 million.

Crusaders hold off brave Lions

The New Zealand side started strongly and a red card for Lions flanker Kwagga Smith late in the first half proved a blow from which the home side could not recover in their bid to land a maiden Super Rugby crown, despite their best efforts.

Having led 15-3 at the break, the Crusaders added another 10 before tries from Malcolm Marx and Corne Fourie earned 2016 runners-up the Lions some consolation, as the Crusaders clinched their first silverware since 2008.

Crusaders battling the odds and history in trying to conquer the Lions in Super Rugby final

Not only would the Crusaders secure an eighth title if successful against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday, they would also make competition history.

No team has crossed the Indian Ocean during the finals and gone on to claim the silverware.

The Crusaders won their first three titles on the road but none of them were in South Africa.

Christchurch was then the venue for four final triumphs, the last in 2008 marking the end of a glorious period under Robbie Deans.

Crusaders unchanged for final

Despite No 8 Read limping off with a knee injury with several minutes remaining in the 27-13 win over the Chiefs in the semifinal in Christchurch last weekend, and tighthead prop Franks having to be replaced at halftime by Mike Alaalatoa because of an Achilles tendon complaint, the two All Blacks have been confirmed as starters for the match in Johannesburg on Sunday morning.

Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar noted Read and Franks had been carefully managed since the team arrived in South Africa, guaranteeing the same 23 will take the park for the third week running.

'In your face' approach in store for Crusaders

Buoyed by news they will play in front of a sellout crowd of 62,000 at Ellis Park, the Lions have their sights set on becoming the competition's second South African champions when they host the decider on Sunday morning.

Standing in the way of the overall top qualifiers are the New Zealand conference-winning Crusaders, who share the same 16 win-one loss record this season.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann is adamant his team mustn't depart from the expansive methods that have taken them to successive finals.

South Africa visa changes hit Crusaders fans

Because a 20-year visa-free travel arrangement between South Africa and New Zealand has ended, Kiwis now require a three-month holiday visa to visit the Republic; and as passionate Crusaders fan Grant Golding has discovered, getting one at short notice is very difficult.

After the Crusaders beat the Chiefs in the semifinal at AMI Stadium last weekend, Golding contacted the South African High Commission in Wellington to ask about securing the documentation to travel to the Republic.

Lions loosies dream big

The Lions host the seven-time champion Crusaders in the Super Rugby title match in Johannesburg on Sunday morning (NZ time), looking to lift the silverware for the first time.

Having pulled off a remarkable comeback semifinal win over the champion Hurricanes at Ellis Park last weekend, No 8 Ackermann said the quick turnaround meant the enormity of the occasion was still sinking in.

Fans 'fed up with stadium'

About 13,000 people - well short of the 21,600 the temporary stadium can accommodate - rugged up in the cold to watch the Crusaders beat the Chiefs 27-13 in their Super Rugby semifinal.

Riach was "disappointed and caught a little by surprise" by the number of empty seats at the all Kiwi semifinal, and believes the last couple of weeks has further rammed home the fact the city needs a multi-purpose indoor arena.

Crotty hails defensive effort

Steam billowed from the mouth of Crusaders second five-eighth Crotty on Saturday night as he discussed the upcoming Super Rugby final against the Lions in Johannesburg next Sunday morning (NZT), a small cup of soup nestled in his hand as he tried to stay warm in the sub-zero temperatures at AMI Stadium.