Crusaders aim to get back on track

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Lynn McConnell     24 Apr 2015     Getty Images

With 131 appearances for the side behind him, allied to 25 Test caps with a World Cup winner's medal, and 125 games for Canterbury in the ITM Cup, that is one of the more significant resumes in the New Zealand game.

So successive losses to the Highlanders and Chiefs are significant but not goal threatening, so long as they can be turned around promptly.

Standing in the way of that turnaround is a Blues team completely down on its luck but possessing a potential sting in its tail if taken lightly. The old rivals go at it again on Saturday in Christchurch and while both may be down on the quality of performance that has marked many of their previous encounters, tradition demands the utmost of effort as each seeks to claim a necessary win.

After last week's tryless loss to the Chiefs, Ellis said the side had responded well and had taken a hard look at themselves.

"It's time we really fronted. It is a pretty important game for us," he said.

Ellis said inconsistency had been the side's problem this year. In some games, such as the rout of the Sharks in Durban they had played well, and like the Crusaders of old, but at other times they had been off the pace.

Against the Chiefs they hadn't nailed the chances they created, they were beaten at the breakdown and one of their areas of strength, the lineout, was put under pressure.

The effort against the Sharks had been the way the side wanted to play and Ellis said he felt they were not far away from achieving that.

And while the Blues had been struggling this year, Ellis said that didn't mean anything.

"When you play any of the New Zealand teams previous form doesn't matter. The Conference games are really big.

"The Blues are pretty skilful and they have some X factor players who have some real talent. We will have to be on our game.

"Defence will be a big thing and they have an All Blacks front row," he said.

Ellis, who spent the off season playing for Kobe in Japan, said he had enjoyed being back with the Crusaders and was hoping to re-sign with the Crusaders again next year, after another season in Japan.

Mentioned as a contender for the All Blacks, especially after injury to Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ellis said regaining the black jersey was definitely one of his goals.

"World Cup year is a pretty special year and it has been a motivating factor for me. But the most important thing is performing my role for the Crusaders first.

"There are now quality halfbacks throughout New Zealand when people were saying we were not that well served a few years ago. But guys are performing week in and week out now and that is a good thing for the country," he said.

And two of the more experienced in the craft, and World Cup teammates, Ellis and Jimmy Cowan will be central to their respective teams performance in Saturday's clash.

The Crusaders take on the Blues on Saturday, 25 April. Kick off at 7.35pm NZST, with Anzac Day commemoration activities from 7pm. Click here to buy tickets.