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Highlanders' pack faces heavy duty effort

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Thursday, March 14, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Naming six forwards substitutes was deliberate and reflective of the expected battle up front with the necessary firepower and energy on hand to withstand the Crusaders challenge.

"The Crusaders are obviously tracking pretty well and we are pretty excited about having a crack at them in front of our people down here," Mauger said.

"We feel we are doing a lot of things well. Obviously there are a few things we haven't quite nailed over the last four weeks. They've all been tight games," he said.

Mauger felt there was a chance they could have had a win in each of the games, especially if they had been more ruthless in big moments. One area had been their concession of points just after scoring themselves and that had been a big focus during the week of preparation.

Last week's 22-25 loss to the Hurricanes had been especially representative of that issue.

"I thought we did a lot of good things up there. Our forward pack was very strong. Good to see the plan for those young guys really coming to fruition and starting to put opposition teams under pressure around the set piece and also around the field with their physicality. We still have got a wee way to go there but there have been some good strides forward from a lot of those young guys up front.

"We didn't deliver the killer blow when we had the opportunity to do that against the Hurricanes and good sides in this competition, especially these New Zealand derbies, you've got to put teams away. In these big games that is what you have to do," he said.

Ruthlessness was needed and that was about being aware in any situation.

"Whether we have done things really well or not very well, just focusing on the moment, or on the next moment. Just diving into what that is. Not just as a team, but as individuals.

"I don't think we are far off. When we do hit our straps it is going to go off with a bang so hopefully that's Saturday night."

Mauger said that after a good forward effort against the Hurricanes there was no getting carried away. The Crusaders were a different team and it was about pushing the reset button.

"It's a different pack, it's a different scrum so it's important we reset and focus on the challenge ahead of us," he said.

Lock Jack Whetton has been given a starting role with the side for the game.

"Jack is a real physical beast. Loves scrummaging, loves getting around the field and making his presence felt physically at ruck time. That is what we need against a good Crusaders pack, obviously they've been the dominant pack for the last couple of years in this competition so we're aware of the challenge coming up front. He performed really well for the Bravehearts last week against the Knights up in Christchurch so he's earned that opportunity," he said.