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Crusaders confident with Mo'unga cover

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Monday, February 27, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Crusaders assistant-coach Leon MacDonald said almost as soon as the 17-13 victory was sealed against the Brumbies on Saturday the players had turned their attention to the Highlanders.

"The South Island derbies have always been good, right back since Super Rugby started. There's an intense rivalry and we've noticed there's a little bit of a shift in the boys' attitude already from the start of the week. We're very excited about it," he said.

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MacDonald said the absence for nearly two months of first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga due to a broken hand was unfortunate.

Mo'unga had been growing in confidence and leading the team well and would be a loss but they had good cover in the squad and he was sure whoever stepped into his boots would do a good job.

The injury came to light when Mo'unga contacted the team management on Sunday and said he had a sore hand. MacDonald explained that at an injury session, which they have after every game, Mo'unga had presented with a very sore hand. He was sent for a scan and surgery followed. The injury happened early in the game.

Mitchell Hunt, who played for New Zealand's Under-20 side at first five-eighths and Marty McKenzie, who plays for Taranaki and the Maori All Blacks in the position, were available to be used in the role. Whether any cover would be brought in would also depend on how second five-eighths Tim Bateman was recovering from his injury.



The goal-kicking option would also be covered with both Hunt and McKenzie kicking well and with David Havili also available to be called upon.

MacDonald said in patches the Crusaders had played well against the Brumbies.

"Some of the handling was fantastic, we attacked really well. We mixed it with probably some over-excitement, pushing some passes and not controlling the ball. The boys recognised it at half-time and for whatever reason we were unable to rein that back in.

"It was a first-up game, I don't think the cohesion was as good as it could be and some of the timing, and bits and pieces so to get away with a win, albeit an ugly one we were still happy with that and happy with a lot of the effort, it's just the accuracy that needs to be tidied up," he said.