Well done to the Crusaders. It was always going to be a tough ask to go to Johannesburg and get the win; to fly over there and defeat a strong Lions side required a mammoth effort - the Crusaders had to aim up early on and they certainly did that.
The game was played amid an eerie atmosphere. The Lions had massive support which was almost deafening at times, but whenever the Crusaders did something brilliant Ellis Park fell silent. At moments when those of us back in New Zealand were all probably cheering and carrying on at the TV, the stadium was really quiet.
That's just how passionate the South African fans are. Right from the outset, wing Seta Tamanivalu's runaway try laid down the marker. I think it all came down to the first 30 minutes when the Crusaders were all over the Lions, then, obviously, the red card to Kwagga Smith had a huge impact. But the Lions could have few complaints about that.
It's great to see that all the pre-game criticism over South African referees was unwarranted. There's no better way to shut the New Zealand public up and I loved the way Johan Ackermann came out at the press conference and said, 'Well I guess New Zealanders probably think Jaco Peyper is a good referee'.
It just goes to show how fickle we are. Referees have come under massive criticism leading into the game over whether we should be having neutral referees or not. But they are professionals and they showed why they were given the job. You couldn't fault Peyper on his performance. People forget there are consequences if the referees don't perform at their best; they lose their rankings and lose fixtures.
Every referee wants to be the best referee he can be. If you are ever going to be doing a World Cup final you don't get those positions by making poor decisions and not sending guys off when you should be. They deserve a little bit of recognition - the officials did their jobs well.
The Lions showed in the second half when playing with 14 men that they were still capable of coming back and were hanging in there which was good to see. It was a good final.
It was great to see the faces and the joy at the outcome for the Crusaders at the final whistle. It's one thing winning a final at home but going away and winning away very rarely happens and for the Crusaders to go to South Africa it is probably the equivalent of the 1996 All Blacks going over there and winning a series for the first time.
The reviews and criticisms of the whole Super Rugby competition will now start but it was great to see at 10 o'clock last night the boys arriving back in Christchurch and the fans all having a late night to go out and greet them. It shows what it means.
The success says a huge amount about Scott Robertson's coaching methods. One of the most common statements coaches make when they are appointed is that it is going to take three years, but Dave Rennie did the same thing in taking the title out in his first year and now Scott Robertson has gone and done the same thing.
Chris Boyd basically transformed the Hurricanes and then saw them take the title out in his second year. Good coaches make their mark almost instantly. It shows that Robertson has the ear of the players, he's in tune with them and that the players have bought into his philosophy, that is vital. If the coach can get the players to buy into a collective plan then everyone is working in the same direction and you get instant results.
Robertson has done very, very well. It's easy to put him on a pedestal but the likes of Leon MacDonald, Brad Mooar and Jason Ryan, the guys around him, looked like they were all having fun in their respective roles. When the management are having fun, and the players are having fun, you've got a really good recipe and a healthy environment in which to perform.
We can put Super Rugby behind us now and look forward to the Rugby Championship. I am certainly looking forward to it after our early taste of Test rugby with the British & Irish Lions series.
It was interesting to learn from the All Blacks' squad announcement that Owen Franks is suffering some issues with his Achilles tendon. I can relate to that from my own experience of having tendinitis and it reoccurring and reoccurring. The best thing that ever happened to me was that I snapped it.
And then I got it fixed and got back after six months out of the game. With an Achilles, when it starts to play up it is either a long spell to bring it right, and there are no guarantees it will come right, or surgery.
You look at the Achilles tendon like a rubber bungy cord. When it gets worn, old or tired the signs aren't good and there are not a lot of ways to heal it. Rest is one thing with friction and blood flow and all the rest of it but expectations on Owen Franks are to go out and be the cornerstone of the All Blacks scrum at tighthead. That will put on a lot of strain on his Achilles.
But when it gets old it can snap and that's when you replace it, which is what happened to me. There is a tendon that runs down the middle of your shin which they cut out and plaited around the original Achilles tendon and let it heal. But they will only do that for professional athletes.
I worry that something might happen, and touch wood it doesn't, but I think we need to plan for life without Owen Franks and I mean that with all due respect to him. Hopefully, it may only be a short-term situation where he is gone and then comes back. He is young enough, but we have to be prepared that he could either be told to sit out for a while or his injury might get worse to the point where he can't play.
So the naming of Nepo Laulala in the All Blacks' squad is huge. He's someone who, in my mind, walks in there as the next cab off the rank to be the starting at No.3 for the All Blacks. That will leave Charlie Faumuina, who is heading to Europe, feeling a little unlucky after he played second fiddle to Franks for so long.
Laulala has a huge opportunity and taking Atu Moli as an apprentice is also a good step. But I think also Michael Alaalatoa, who did such a great job when coming on for the Crusaders over the last few weeks, is just as good. Quite often you can pick the Crusaders' reserves because they have been so well schooled and he's been sitting in behind three All Blacks props, so there should be interest in him when he becomes eligible next year.