Crusaders reassess ahead of Highlanders

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Monday, March 12, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Both players left the field early in their loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington at the weekend.

Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar said every one was a key player in the side but to lose the captain and vice captain a couple of minutes into the game against a side like the Hurricanes meant they were going to be severely tested.

"That's a lot of leadership gone pretty quickly, a couple of hundred games plus but we learnt plenty from it and there will be plenty of growth out of that," he said.

Losing was something that happened in sport, no-one went through anything without losing at some stage, Mooar said.

They were not happy with handling mistakes at crucial times and the penalties they conceded. They're all errors that end up in turnovers, he said.

They all had to be looked at in their own situation because they were caused by different circumstances.

"A lot of it for us is that we were put under pressure. The first 20 minutes obviously we didn't have any ball and then we started to get back into the game and find our rhythm. We certainly had our opportunities and have only got ourselves to blame for the result in the end," he said.

"Our job is to look at the performance, not the result itself and work out what did we do well and what didn't we do well and how can we learn from that. What's important to us to get right for this week to put on a performance this week we're proud of against the Highlanders," he said.

It was an important game, just as all games were, but after the loss to the Hurricanes it was especially the case.

"It's another New Zealand derby, a South Island one, and we're really keen to get down to Dunedin to put on a performance we're proud of."

The Crusaders were wary of two close shaves they had with the Highlanders last season, including one win achieved by the remarkable dropped goal kicked by first five-eighths Mitchell Hunt in injury time.

Mooar said he felt there were going to be a number of twists and turns in the competition this year.

"For us, we treat the Highlanders with the utmost respect. They're playing really well, they're looking like they enjoy each other's company and it's an exciting, young, vibrant group so they will be a good challenge for us this week," he said.

There were signs of injured players close to making their way back to selection consideration. Tom Sanders, Mitchell Dunshea and Tim Perry were all making progress.