Scrum battle could be crucial in Hamilton

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Thursday, May 31, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said it was always the same whenever they went to Hamilton and the battle up front would be important. The return of prop Joe Moody from suspension would only add to the contest.

The Chiefs were also well served by first five-eighths Damian McKenzie. They had several players who could carry them and McKenzie was one of them.

"You respect them with your preparation. He [McKenzie] can light it up and he's dangerous and he's converted well to 10 [first five-eighths]," he said.

The Chiefs' ability to cope with injury problems had been impressive. They had demonstrated huge resilience and every time a player had been brought in they had stood up and that was evidence of their strength of culture.

Robertson said while it was frustrating for the Crusaders to also have players ruled out, with lock Sam Whitelock and second five-eighths Ryan Crotty unavailable, they weren't concentrating on who was out, they were concentrating on who had come in and to have someone like Quinten Strange coming in for Sam Whitelock with Scott Barrett it made a great combination.

"We trust our depth and every time we've given someone an opportunity they've taken it," he said.

With the Pete Samu issue over his possible call-up by Australia bubbling along this week the Crusaders had not been distracted and Robertson said it wasn't so much an issue as what happened in professional sport.

Samu had come to New Zealand to further his career and had achieved that and now he wanted to play international rugby for Australia just as any player would want to play Test rugby.

"He's grown exceptionally and we've helped him get his dream which is to play international rugby and over those three years he's not been just a great ball runner, he's also been great in our lineout. He's become much tougher defensively and he's been more consistent as a player and he's still got those game-changing runs that we know he can do," he said.

Samu also had the ability to play any one of the three loose forward positions which was great for the side's all-round utility.

With his signing for the Brumbies for next season the way had been open for the Crusaders to renew their acquaintance with Whetu Douglas who made his mark when appearing as cover for injuries last year. He quickly became a crowd favourite in Christchurch but had already committed to a two-year contract with Treviso in Italy, Robertson said.

But they had talked about future options and they had been able to sign him, in association with Canterbury on a two-year deal which will see him play in this year's Mitre 10 Cup.