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Crusaders downplay favouritism tag

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Lynn McConnell     31 Jul 2018     Getty Images

Assistant coach Brad Mooar said people making those judgments were not involved in the contest and the Crusaders were well aware of the threat posed by the Lions.

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"They've earnt their position in the final. Swys de Bruin I really respect as a coach. He's brought a new coaching group together and through this year. He's carried on a culture from Johan Ackermann which you can clearly seen has carried on but he's putting in his own flavour to that settled group," he said.

It was a case of 'respect all, fear none' and the Crusaders couldn't wait to build their week and get into the game and take on the challenge.

Mooar said the Lions were a strong set-piece side and their first five-eighths Elton Jantjies got them around the field really well while their back three were all fast and dangerous.

"It's a hell of a recipe for an opposition for us to prepare for," he said.

The Lions represented a different sort of threat to playing New Zealand sides with whom the players and coaches were much more familiar.

A lot more homework was involved in preparing to play overseas sides to see if there had been significant changes from when they met earlier in the year.

The relationship between the two sides was illustrative of that between the Springboks and the All Blacks and the Lions had been highly successful over the last few years and really consistent.

"It's their third final in a row, their second in New Zealand, and I'm sure they've delved back into their trip to take on the Hurricanes a couple of years ago and worked out what they thought worked well there and try to put together a plan to beat us here.



"It's a really exciting week to prepare for," he said.

Players like hooker Malcolm Marx, lock Franco Mostert, flanker Kwagga Smith and No.8 Warren Whiteley ensured they had to be widely respected and would demand the Crusaders put their best performance on the park.

Flanker Jordan Taufua was out with a broken arm for the Crusaders while Ryan Crotty had passed his HIA after a head knock late in the semifinal but would have to go through protocols to clear himself to play. Prop Mike Ala'alatoa had suffered a back injury from a cleanout and would be working his way back during the week, Mooar said.

First five-eighths Richie Mo'unga would again be a key player for the side and he continued to grow in front of the management's eyes, he said.

Sides always wanted to put pressure on first five-eighths but Mo'unga didn't shy away from that because he saw it as part of his job, and that pressure helped him do his job.

There was great support for Mo'unga from the other five-eighths in the squad, especially the experienced Mike Delany, but also Mitch Hunt.

"Richie's got the whole package, his first 10m is outstanding and unreal, so he creates space. He's one of those players who's got time on the ball. When others seem a bit rushed, he's got more time and with that time comes vision and decision-making.

"Once you've got the ability to do that, and great communication around you then your chances of doing the right thing are right up there," he said.