Crusaders name change needs to be put on hold - Scott Roberston, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock

Three of the most prominent names in Crusaders rugby have stressed the need for Cantabrians to grieve before discussing a potential name change.

Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and coach Scott Robertson have spoken publicly for the first time since Friday's horror mosque massacre in Christchurch.

The franchise is re-evaluating its identity, after concerns over what the Crusaders moniker really represents.

The Crusades were a series of wars between Christians and Muslims 1000 years ago, resulting in millions of deaths.

But for Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock, those discussions should be cast to one side for the time being.

"I think, at the moment, this is much bigger than rugby," Whitelock said in a video posted on the Crusaders Facebook page.

"At the moment, we are just trying to give everyone space where they need it and those things will happen in the future, when it is most appropriate."

There have been mixed reactions to the call for a name change. Crusaders fans are steadfast in their disapproval of removing a name they identify with and support with passion.

But on Tuesday, Sports Minister Grant Robertson said there were merits in debating the name change, calling it "a responsible action".

The Crusaders trio said the most important thing right now was to support the grieving Muslim community of Christchurch.

"And for us, the biggest community that's hurting is the Muslim community and what can we do to help them?" Read said.

"It's hard to fathom what they're going through. For us to support them the best we can is important.

"That's the great thing about New Zealand, the fact that there are so many different races and people from different nationalities that are here. For me, that diversity is what brings us so much closer together."

The horses during the Super Rugby match, Crusaders V Waratahs, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand, 12th May 2018.Copyright photo: John Davidson /
Photo credit: Photosport
Crusaders fans. Super Rugby game between the Crusaders and the Stormers. Crusaders new Christchurch Stadium at Rugby League Park, Saturday 14 April 2012. Photo : Joseph Johnson /
Photo credit: Photosport

The Crusaders and Highlanders cancelled their fourth-round Super Rugby clash last Saturday night after the tragedy, but will return to the field this weekend against the Waratahs in Sydney.

Given what rugby means to the people of Christchurch, Robertson hopes his side can provide an 80-minute distraction to the community.

"We're fortunate our outlet is to go and play a game we love," Roberston said.

"We know people support us and are behind us, but we're also aware that people are going to go be builders or lawyers or doctors as well.

"What they did post that tragedy in the hospital was incredible, and we see them perform and them doing their job. Now it's our chance to do our job and inspire people like we've done for a long time, and represent them.

"That's the most [important] thing we get to do - we're a real proud province and region and for us to represent. There's nothing better and to get back out there on Saturday night is a chance for us to do that."


Join us at 9:45pm Saturday for live updates of the Crusaders vs Waratahs Super Rugby clash.