Crusaders seek early cohesion

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Monday, February 19, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Assistant coach Brad Mooar said, "Being the champions of 2017 is something that we've left behind but no doubt it provides motivation to opposition saying 'let's have a crack at these guys, they hold the title at the moment'. 


"What that means for us is that we can't afford to be off, even by a couple of percent."

That starts on Saturday when they host the Chiefs in the first of their local derbies for the season.

Mooar said the Crusaders had a lot of respect for the Chiefs and the battle had been given some extra spice with former Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson having joined Colin Cooper in coaching the Hamilton-based side.

Cooper's experience in coaching not only the Maori All Blacks but with the Crusaders and Hurricanes, and Taranaki, would bring a calmness to the Chiefs. He had been around long enough to have seen most things that could happen on a rugby field, Mooar said.

The Chiefs had managed to retain their ability to play an expansive, exciting game even with the changes they had made and their attack was very dangerous.

Damian McKenzie was always going to be dangerous from broken play, there were exciting players around him while the forward pack was as tough as teak.
"One thing that Damian being at No.10 will provide is more touches on the ball and if one of your best players is getting more touches on the ball then that makes it hell of a dangerous for us," he said.

Halfback Brad Weber was looking back to his best after a broken leg, he was very quick and ran great support lines and the Crusaders were aware that if he got any chances to run off his players the Crusaders would pay the price.

"It's great to see him back, this time last year he was nursing a broken leg so it is good to see great players come back," he said.

While losing to the Highlanders in their final pre-season game at Waimumu, the win for the Crusaders was getting their returning All Blacks into some game time and having all 29 players involved able to get through the game without suffering any injuries.

Now the focus was learning the lessons of the pre-season programme because there was also going to be a lot to learn during the early stages of the Super campaign.

"We need to evolve our game and you never stop learning. We have to keep ahead of the pack, outrun the bear so to speak. We've done some things there but it all comes down to the heat of battle and how we are going to front under pressure," Mooar said.