News24.com | The super rare occasions when weather conditions decided major rugby cup finals
Cory Flynn of the Crusaders (R) throws into the lineout ball in foggy conditions during the Super 14 final match against the Hurricanes at Jade Stadium May 27, 2006 in Christchurch. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)
- Saturday’s United Rugby Championship final between the Bulls and the Stormers is set to be dealt a harsh weather card.
- Heavy rain has lashed the Western Cape, affecting the playing surface at the Cape Town Stadium.
- The Western Cape receives the bulk of its rain in winter, which has arrived in full force this week.
Rugby may be an all-weather winter sport that starts in summer or autumn in both hemispheres, but United Rugby Championship and Super Rugby finals have oddly historically been blessed with decent weather.
One would be surprised to learn how rare weather-affected major rugby finals are. The four Super Rugby finals hosted by South Africa in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2017 weren’t affected by the elements.
It has to be said, only one of those showpiece games was held on the coast when the Bulls famously upset the Sharks. But with the other three finals being firmly under autumn Johannesburg and Tshwane skies, they were spared the capricious highveld summer weather (infamous for late afternoon thunderstorms).
The horthern hemisphere winter is known for its brutality and Cape Town’s no different with its Mediterranean climate that sees the bulk of its rainfall in winter.
Two strong cold fronts swept in this week and thoroughly drenched the Cape after an unusually elongated warm snap.
Low-lying areas have been flooded, as is the norm with Western Cape winters, while the freeze has spread across the country.
With the Cape Town Stadium reasonably sheltered, but also close to the Atlantic Ocean, it has taken up its share of the rain.
That said, with the bulk of Super Rugby finals having taken place in New Zealand and three in Australia, it’s also a surprise the weather hasn’t had much of a say, especially in New Zealand.
On the other hand, the United Rugby Championship finals in its various Magners League, PRO12, and PRO14 variants, haven’t been acutely affected by the weather either.
Here are three Super Rugby finals that have been impacted by the weather:
31 May 1997: Blues 23–7 Brumbies – Eden Park, Auckland
For a country that’s notorious for wet-weather games, this comes as a surprise that of the multitude of Super Rugby finals New Zealand has hosted, this is the only one where the rain came close to leveling things.
That said, the Sir Graham Henry-coached Blues was a formidable, All Black-laden outfit that was well equipped to cope with all conditions.
That the tries were scored by forwards Craig Dowd and Michael Jones spoke volumes of the Blues’ forward dominance and the impact of the rain.
27 May 2000: Brumbies 19-20 Crusaders – GIO Stadium, Canberra
It didn’t rain on this night, but the inclemency of the weather showed itself on how cold it was as the Crusaders won their third consecutive Super Rugby title (all away from home).
Players sat with bomber jackets and blankets on the side of the field. That’s a common sight in New Zealand and South Africa, but not in Australia.
Australia’s capital turned up cold, as the contest heated up in front of 27 000 spectators with Ron Cribb and George Smith swapping tries.
Andrew Mehrtens’s boot proved to be the difference as the Crusaders denied the Brumbies, who the following year went one better by crushing the Sharks 36-6 in much more pleasant conditions.
27 May 2006: Crusaders 19-12 Hurricanes – Lancaster Park, Christchurch
Lancaster Park hosted four successful Super Rugby finals before its unfortunate demise because of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
None will be as bizarre as the 2006 all-New Zealand final between the ascendant Crusaders and the fitful Hurricanes.
The sides were deserving finalists, but none of them were ready for the fog that descended on the ground an hour before kick-off.
They were advised to continue, which they did, but that’s what the game was memorable for: the Fog.
The commentators couldn’t call the action accurately and couldn’t see from one side of the field to the other.
On one recent odd occasion, the Currie Cup final between the Bulls and Sharks at Loftus in January 2021 also suffered a mid-game break due to torrential showers and accompanying thunderstorms.
Officials stopped play in the 24th minute as the players scurried back into the tunnel. Up to that point, the Sharks had the ascendancy in the contest but that break allowed the hosts to snap out of their funk and resurrect their charge to the trophy, which they won thanks to an Arno Botha extra-time finish.