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Mo'unga eyes another step in rugby progress

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Lynn McConnell     21 Apr 2016     Getty Images

The home side recovered from their mauling by the Chiefs by beating the Waratahs last weekend and will be looking at the Crusaders as an ideal stepping stone in their recovery.

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But the Crusaders are on their own mission and the Brumbies are an ideal gauge of how they are progressing.

The Sunday game meant the Crusaders were able to enjoy a long weekend with Monday off to recharge, get over their hectic schedule of the last month and prepare for the Brumbies.

First five-eighths Richard Mo'unga, who has grown with the side this season, said of the Brumbies: "They're a world-class side with players who are really experienced and several of them are in the Wallabies so we expect them to come out firing and we expect them to be at their best this weekend.

"I've heard it's a tough place to play and I guess when you are playing a team like the Brumbies at home it's always going to be tough."

It's been a season of firsts for the former New Zealand Under-20 player. He made his first trip to South Africa to play in Durban and Johannesburg and on the Crusaders' way home he had his first visit to Perth.

Of his South African experience Mo'unga said: "It's awesome, and great experience.

"The fans over there are so passionate, they love their rugby. It's a different place, nice and friendly."

That didn't stop the Kings Park fans in Durban getting into him when he experienced a rare goal-kicking glitch against the Sharks. He missed several shots at goal but the side were enough in control to still win the game.

"It was a huge setback, but at the same time we had overcome a really good Sharks team on their home ground in Africa which is really hard to do.

"For me it was about taking my time to look back with [assistant coach] Brad Mooar at little things that were off like my head coming up too fast. I guess it was just a great experience to have something like that on a big stage in a big stadium with thousands of people roaring.

"Looking back I'll be better for it. People talk about the process at times like that and I didn't really stick to mine," he said.



Ahead of the Lions game the following week he didn't have the best success when taking some shots immediately before the game so it had been special to get the first kick over in the match.

And it had been interesting kicking at altitude when not realising that he would ever kick the ball as far as he did.

"It was good to experience something like that but the downside to that is when you come back to cold Christchurch and you are kicking with a frosted ball, that's a bit tough," he said.

Fully aware of the emphasis that would go on the first five-eighths position with regulars Dan Carter, Colin Slade and Tom Taylor leaving en masse, Mo'unga took a cautious view to the season.

"Before the season I just wanted to take the opportunities that were there and at this stage of the competition I'm just trying to do my bit within the team to make the team as successful as it can be.

"I'm not trying to do too much but to go in with an open mind and do what I can and where I can.

"At this stage it is pretty easy with the likes of the players that are inside and outside me. We know it's a long competition and there is a lot of hard work to do and a lot of tough teams to play. We're still keeping grounded and training hard," he said.

Having someone as experienced as Andy Ellis at halfback inside him has been a boost while he has another long-term performer in Ryan Crotty restored to fitness outside him.

"Andy is relentless and that's the beauty of having someone like him inside you, he makes you feel a bit more composed and a whole lot more comfortable when the game's getting tough.

"When things need to happen he's always a good person to talk to and he's really good at connecting and talking and you never hear the end of him. As soon as the game stops it's actually pretty good because he stops talking.

"I played with Crotts for a bit of ITM last year and we know how we play and his voice outside is awesome. He's experienced and I've been living with him for the last couple of months so out on the field it is a bit easier to connect as well," he said.

The latest test against the Brumbies will be another important step in the rugby education of Mo'unga and another top stadium will be ticked off his list of new rugby venues.