Crusaders expect Lions response to final loss

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Friday, March 30, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Hooker Codie Taylor said the Crusaders had good memories of their last visit and the celebrations that ensued but they knew they couldn't think too much about that or they would lose focus with the job ahead of them this week.


They were looking to get their own season back on track after earlier losses to the Hurricanes and the Highlanders.

"We haven't really talked about it this week but I think everyone knows that if we turn up with the right mindset it is going to pay off," he said.

Taylor was looking forward to the personal challenge of sparring with the rising Springbok star and incumbent hooker Malcolm Marx.

He was a good player who had enjoyed a sky-rocketing start to his career and he had taken all his opportunities, Taylor said.

"I'm looking forward to getting into it on Sunday. I've played him a few times now so we know each other quite well. He's a big brute, he carries the ball well, his set-piece is good and he's a tough man to bring down if you give him time.

"He's definitely one of the leaders in their forward pack and we can't give him much time or he'll do some damage," he said.

"They have a great set-piece, a great lineout and they like to strike off it. They love a drive so we have to be pretty onto it when it comes to stopping that. We played the Bulls last week who are similar so we'll preview them like we did the Bulls and hope we get the same outcome," he said.

Coach Scott Robertson said when talking about his selection choices that flanker Matt Todd was close to playing last week against the Bulls as he recovered very quickly from his rib injury against the Highlanders but they had given him another week. And while he was the only specialist openside in the team, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis or Tom Sanders were capable of playing there if needed.

Wing Seta Tamanivalu had done a good job rehabilitating his groin and had been fine all week.

The Crusaders had reflected on how much preparation went into last year's final in terms of homework done and keeping themselves fresh by making good decisions. That gave them every bit of energy and clarity of mind they could muster going into the final.

"The Lions' strength comes from their forward pack, the majority of their tries come from rolling mauls when they get into your 22m and they've got a good scrum so if you haven't got incredible discipline you get marched up the field with a big raking left boot from [Elton] Jantjies and you're going to be defending your own line.

"That's their strength, there's no doubt and the stats show it. They're very good at running hard and straight and we know what an exciting backline they've got when they're given room," he said.

Robertson said the choice of halfback was always a good conversation at selection time and they were fortunate among the New Zealand franchises at being able to rotate their halfbacks, Bryn Hall and Mitch Drummond.

"There's not much between them, they're very good campaigners and both potential All Blacks, well one is already and the other one is not far away," he said.

Manawatu flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis gets another start with the side and continues to impress. Robertson said: "Heiden is tough, physical and he's taken every opportunity, he can play multiple positions. He's hard core, there's a little bit of old school about him. The boys love him because he does everything possible for the team."