Crusaders' depth to be tested by Hurricanes

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

But circumstances have meant the defending champions will be reduced in strength for the contest.

Coach Scott Robertson said he took pride from preparing himself for the 'what-ifs' because they had a bit of depth in most positions but the propping suspensions of All Blacks Joe Moody and Owen Franks, and the hamstring injury suffered by Tim Perry at the All Blacks' camp, had really tested the Crusaders.

"I'm always a solution-minded person and we found a way forward with two props, one playing his third game and one playing probably his 299th game and that's Chris King, who dropped down the tools, put down the old hammer and here he is back in for about the fourth time," he said.

Robertson said they had been impressed with the way players who had been called in had stepped up and taken their opportunities and it was the job of the coaches to make sure they were ready and successful which they all had been so far this season.

Moody and Franks, were remorseful for what they had done but they were physical, and aggressive, players. Technically they could be a little better around their actions but they needed to be more aware of what they do with their limbs.

"There's no intent, there never has been, we've never coached like that. They've got to be a lot tighter. We're fully respectful, we understand the processes," he said.

What was important for the Crusaders was to show they played to the edge but they were clean, he said.

Like the Hurricanes, the team management had to plan for the disruption caused by the All Blacks' camp and they just had to manage it, he said.

While they would have done mental and physical preparation with the All Blacks, it was his job to get them back up for Friday's game with the Hurricanes.

Both captain Sam Whitelock and second five-eighths Ryan Crotty were still sidelined due to concussion protocols. Luke Romano had returned to the substitutes' bench and that was pleasing for Robertson.

"When he first did his ankle I thought he had broken it and could have been out for the year but all of a sudden four or five weeks later he's back. It's remarkable his recovery, he's worked incredibly hard," he said.

His return was timely because his experience was invaluable, especially against a side like the Hurricanes who were always competitive.

"We're expecting everything [from the Hurricanes]. They're tough, they're physical, it is a top of the table challenge for us. People have come in, it's going to be a full stadium. This is what we play for. Everyone loves derby matches, they look forward to it and so do we as a group.

"It is a chance for players to play some great football on these great occasions and enjoy it, I love these weeks," he said.