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Crusaders seek rhythm from final shakedown

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The pre-season games were important to get rhythm in the side, to put their calling structures in place and to see how they responded under pressure, coach Scott Robertson said.

The game would also be a chance to have a final assessment of how the new laws were being handled by the side and also a last opportunity for players to stake a claim for a starting position.

"It's always good when you're training but when you get someone in front of you it's different, and for us it's a means," he said.

And the Waimumu game would be a chance to get some rhythm building into the opening Super Rugby game against the Chiefs next week.

"The boys are really keen. We've got the sun on our back like the rest of the country has and for us it's a chance to reconnect and we've had a great pre-season on and off the field," he said.

They would be down on the experience available with props Joe Moody and Tim Perry, and No.8 Kieran Read still recovering from injury but he was happy with the way players were shaping and especially Heiden Bedwell-Curtis who was covering for Read.

Robertson said it was only human nature that as defending champions they would be regarded as a key scalp for any opponents and they would be targeted.

Captain Sam Whitelock said one of the lessons of the 2017 season had been they needed to improve every week and when they did that their play got better as the season went on.

"But if we expect to do the same things as we did last year we'll come second or even lower than that," he said.

Robertson's random quirkiness whether on the training ground or at a Monday meeting kept players on their toes and made for a different enjoyment factor, he said.

Whitelock said he enjoyed a good break in December but had been working away quietly in the background in preparation for this season.

Having a busy season last year wasn't an issue for him, he liked playing rugby, wasn't a good spectator and playing and training was where he wanted to be.

His high workload of games hadn't been an issue and he had recovered well to the point where he was fresh and ready to go, he said.