Finals footy second nature for Crusaders

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The defending champions, and before that three-time Super Rugby champions, were together on Saturday when they had a bye to talk through their week.

 

Assistant coach Scott Hansen said the Crusaders knew what finals football was about and what would be involved leading into the final.

 

"We've worked really hard to get here, there's been a lot of sacrifices made. You've got to acknowledge the excitement of the week. You've got to build through it well. You can feel it in the boys already," he said.

 

Good news for them came with centre Braydon Ennor coming through his second game for University on Saturday, where he had looked dynamic. That is especially valuable given the season-ending injury suffered by All Blacks midfield partner Jack Goodhue.

 

"He used his feet well, he defended well so, for him, the conversation now is he'll become available for selection and we'll do what's best for the team around that," Hansen said.

 

"He's a key member of this group, he's worked so well to come back. His rehab, and his recovery, he's done a fantastic job there, and he's probably put his hand up earlier than we would have expected. But he's done that well through the club path, and in conversation with him, he's ready to go."

 

Hansen said he felt momentum was key going into a final, but what the Chiefs had done in giving some of their less experienced players a start in the dead rubber game against the Blues had worked well.

 

 

"That, in itself, builds a different form of momentum. It builds depth and belief in the squad. They have had a good season.

 

"It's been a bit of a fairy tale season for them, the resilience they've shown from last year, the learning, the growth in their game. It's been a good story, and they've worked well to get to this final.

 

"We know it's going to be a massive challenge this weekend," he said.

 

Hansen said the finals process involved de-cluttering minds, and it was a case of looking internally at things they were doing well.

 

"We know the Chiefs are playing well, but we've had the chance to look at our game and areas where we can be better. We're going to have to be, we're going to have to be at our best this weekend," he said.

 

The breakdown was one significant area they were looking at in terms of presenting and securing, ball. Given the Chiefs strength in that area, it would be a crucial part of the contest.

 

There were other ways of dealing with that issue and, in their last game against the Blues, it had been a matter of controlling the ball better in field position that allowed the Crusaders to apply pressure differently.

 

They had also employed more variation through their set-piece and were able to move the Blues around.

 

They were happy with how that worked out, and they would need a good plan to cope against the Chiefs, he said.