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Crusaders wary of desperate Blues

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Blues might be down on their returns after an explosive start against the Rebels but Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was expecting they would be no different from earlier Blues teams coming south and looking to fire.

The Crusaders had respected that in their preparation and it would be a typical New Zealand derby, almost Test-like in its intensity.

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"You see the injury rate that comes out of them, and the attrition and the boys come off absolutely shattered.

"The Blues are desperate and we've had a couple of tight matches and we want to make sure that we take those learnings and move forward so it's going to be a hell of an occasion and expectations are high for both teams and I'm sure will put on a show to match it," he said.

The Crusaders will have to do it without some of their key firepower.

Fullback Israel Dagg will be out for six weeks with a PCL injury and will have some tidy up work done with knee cartilage as a result of the injury while wing Seta Tamanivalu's hamstring injury will keep him off the field for three to four weeks during which time the Crusaders have their bye.

Bryn Hall has been given the starting role at halfback after his performance coming on as a substitute against the Reds and scoring two tries.

"It's always nice to play against your old team. We've got a number of good halfbacks in the club and any of them could have run out but Bryn deserves it and it's obviously pretty special for him after being a Blue for a pretty long time but he's clearly a Crusader now," he said.
"Wing Manasa Mataele gets his opportunity through a couple of injuries but we've got a 'next man in' policy and he's the next man in. He's a great talent, a young kid, really mature for his age and he gets to take his uncle's jersey in No.14 so it's a really special occasion for him. As a team we're getting ready so he can perform.

"[No8] Whetu Douglas has been enormous for us this year. He's taken his opportunity, you wouldn't think it's his first year in Super Rugby. He's 26-year-old, he's a late bloomer but his effort and the mana he has in the team is incredible so it's another challenge for him to go up against one of the world's best.

"He's accepted every other challenge and he's part of our squad so we're really excited for him," Robertson said.

Midfield pair Jack Goodhue and Ryan Crotty were looking forward to their contest with what Robertson called a pretty accomplished pair of athletes who could play great rugby in George Moala and Rieko Ioane and were capable of creating a lot.

"You've got to match yourself against the best to be the best and for them coming up a pretty passionate and desperate Blues side it's a great test for them and to keep their combination going," he said.