Ronan O'Gara one step away from Super Rugby final as Crusaders devour Sharks
Ronan O'Gara rarely enjoyed his end-of-season trips to New Zealand but his first ever coaching stint in the Land of the Long White Cloud has been highly enjoyable.
Be it Ireland or Lions tours, O'Gara the player rarely experienced that winning feeling in New Zealand. For O'Gara the coach, it is an entirely different matter.
The former Munster star packed himself and the family up and off to the southern hemisphere when Crusaders boss Scott Robertson asked if he would be interested in a stint of Super Rugby coaching. O'Gara spent four and a half seasons with Racing 92 and was up for the new challenge.
It helped that he was joining the reigning Super Rugby champions but retaining the title in 2018 would be no cake-walk... or so most of us thought. As it has transpired, the Crusaders topped the league standings and secured top seeding for the knock-out stages. This weekend saw them face off against the Sharks in the last eight, with the Hurricanes awaiting in the semis.
"We are going well, but I think it is a group as opposed to just the team. The preparation in the Crusaders - that is interesting. They practice what they preach, and their actions back their words.
"It is a very positive, engaging and respectful environment. Culture is the key word at the moment and you have to understand what that is and be true to that.
"Everyone drives culture at the Crusaders, which is a huge point of difference.
"Their humility is good, they're respectful and their values are good and their attitudes are great. It has been a fascinating six months with the Crusaders."
Coming from a similar backround at Munster, O'Gara has fully bought into what 'Razor' (Robertson) and Crusaders are striving for.
— Ian O'Reilly (@ioreilly85) July 21, 2018
Few gave the Sharks much of a hope in the Saturday evening clash and it was looking bleak, early doors, when Bryn Hall and David Havili crossed for Crusaders tries. The South Africans got it back to 13-7 but that was the height of it for them.
Richie Mo'unga kept the scoreboard ticking over with penalties before further tries from Braydon Ennor and Wallabies back-row Pete Samu made it 40-10.
So it finished and so the champs march on.
O'Gara got to experience 'finals footy' in Christchurch this weekend but greater challenges await. He, and his new side, are one step away from the 2018 Super Rugby final.