Crusaders chasing a final berth in final round

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With the Highlanders beating the Brumbies 33-12 in Canberra on Friday, the Crusaders now need to beat the Rebels by at least 33 points with a try-scoring bonus point to qualify for the final.

 

Coach Scott Robertson said: "We know pretty clearly what we've got to do. it’s a finals mindset for us."

 

At the same time, the Crusaders need to stop the leaky defence that has been opened up late in recent games. The Force denied them a crucial bonus point with a late try last week.

 

"We're pretty honest around what's required, and where those tries have come from, and how we've given them away, and different areas we can be better. The guys that are coming on, and the guys on there currently, making sure we make the right calls," he said.

 

Helping in that will be the return of All Blacks Richie Mo'unga, Sam Whitelock and Sevu Reece from All Blacks' rest while George Bower and Ethan Blackadder also return.

"They're itchy. Those weeks for them are tough to watch, but also give them a full tank. Their energy is high, and they've led the week really well," Robertson said.

 

Blackadder has recovered from a concussion suffered in the dismantling of the Reds. Robertson said the players recognised Blackadder's contribution by naming him their player of the year.

 

"His relentless work ethic, what he's been through the last couple of years, and then to put himself into the All Blacks' frame for selection through the performances that have been exceptional.

 

"He just won't stop. The whistle stops him, that's it. It means a lot to the players, the way they talked about him and announced him [at their team awards]. Codie [Taylor] did it because he'd won the award the year before. It just shows how much he means to us, and gave him a lot of praise," he said.

 

Also back after re-signing with the side is wing Leicester Fainga'anuku, a player Robertson compared with former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga.

 

"We've sort of mentioned the likeness of him. He [Umaga] was a winger who came on in and could play multiple positions.

 

"He can kick a ball, he's great defensively, really physical. So, he's got attributes to play from 12 to wing. His goal is to be an All Black, and that's our job to help give him those skill sets and utility factor.

 

"He's only 21…feels like he's been around for a long time. There're areas he has to grow in. We understand that. He's tireless in his work ethic. He's going to be a great Crusader," he said.