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Improved discipline a big factor for Crusaders

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Thursday, July 20, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Crusaders were hammered in the penalty count by the Hurricanes in last weekend's loss – their only one of the competition – and captain Sam Whitelock said the need for better discipline was clear.

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"We all knew straight after the game that our discipline was not good enough, there were far too many penalties," he said.

"When you give any great side an opportunity to have a number of free shots when you give away a penalty and they get a 40m kick up the field it makes it tough on yourself so we're aware of that.

"And it's making sure if we've got a nice clean sheet we'll definitely improve our game massively," he said.

There is plenty of incentive to do that as Whitelock and some of his senior team-mates continue their quest for a first Super Rugby title.

Whitelock said having a Super Rugby title to add to the other credits of his rugby career had been an incentive over the last few years.

"When I re-signed that was one of the major factors in me staying and really embracing how hard it is to play in Super Rugby and then to do well and go on and get one of those titles. It's something that really drives myself and the other boys into playing well.

"That's why you get out of bed nice and early when there's a good old frost here in Christchurch," he said.
The Highlanders had several players back from injury who hadn't appeared in the earlier games and the Crusaders were well aware of their strengths, he said, but the main thing was worrying about themselves and putting their best performance out there.

Whitelock said the returning All Blacks felt they had achieved some flow and rhythm during training on Thursday. They had prepared a plan earlier in the year to deal with the hangover effect that can happen after the June international window and he was hopeful that would be reflected on Saturday.

"It's a massive game. The two games we have played this year have been right to the last minute and the boys are super excited. The feeling we've had all week around the excitement, and I'm sure they are the same, we're really looking forward to it. Hopefully it's a great game of rugby even though it might be quite wet," he said.

Coach Scott Robertson said second five-eighths Ryan Crotty's experience and ability to understand the game was huge for the side and he was sharp defensively.
The decision to return David Havili to fullback and place Israel Dagg on the wing had been successful previously for the side and with the expected aerial attack from the Highlanders they would be well placed to cope, especially if the conditions are likely to be wet.

Aaron Smith's box-kicking was a factor the Crusaders were well aware of and the pressure would be on to ensure they caught plenty of them.

There was always a lot of passion between the neighbours but that was increased due to the game's nature as a quarter final.

"We've got to be better in a lot of areas, like clear and obvious at the breakdown and just trust our system a lot more than we have," he said.

While the late wins the Crusaders had achieved in their two outings against the Highlanders this season had the ability to give the side belief going into the game, the fact was it was a new game and it was a one-off. The earlier games may have counted but the quarter final was more important, he said.