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Defence the key says Mauger

Tuesday, May 3, 2005    NZPA    

Despite the Highlanders leaking 41 points in Saturday's loss to the Waratahs, Mauger said the visitors were still wary of a defensive line-up, which up until last weekend had proved highly effective

The match here at Carisbrook could derail the Highlanders Rebel Sport Super 12 semifinal chances while the Crusaders could book a home semifinal.

Mauger considers the match a clash of two styles - the Crusaders free-wheeling fanciness against the Highlanders relatively one-dimensional approach that is heavily reliant on a normally watertight defence.

"People are getting pretty buzzed about it up here," the second five-eighths said.

"It's usually a fairly close game and you find that both teams really lift for it.

"It's a huge chance for us to nail a home semifinal and it's also a big game for the Highlanders to stay in the hunt."

While the Highlanders are hoping to bounce back from a thumping defeat by the Waratahs, the Crusaders are fresh from scoring 77 points against the Sharks.

Mauger, 24, conceded the Crusaders were unhappy at the amount of points they were leaking this season and aware their own opportunities might be infrequent against the Highlanders.

"Their defence has really been their strong point this season," he said.
"The Highlanders have been a fairly structured and clinical team and, apart from the Waratahs, teams have struggled to score against them.

"We've obviously let in more tries than we would like, and we're hoping to rectify that."

Mauger, settled at second five-eighths outside Dan Carter, gave warm praise to his opposite number, the Highlanders' Seilala Mapusua.

"Seilala's really matured and he's having a great season.

"It looks like he's taken on a bit of a leadership role. He's a senior player now and he leads the backline really well."