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Crusaders send out warning

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Sportal.co.nz     19 Mar 2013     Getty Images

The Crusaders have started slow but hit their straps with six tries in the 41-19 win over the previously unbeaten Bulls in Christchurch last Saturday.

The win over the three-time champions marked the Crusaders first win of 2013 after opening losses against the Blues and the Hurricanes.

Mauger said their players are encouraged to back themselves under pressure and keep attacking throughout the preliminary rounds so they will have the confidence to continue that game plan during the play-offs.

"Hopefully we will be there at crunch time and they'll be ready to roll," he said at Crusaders training on Monday.

"Certainly we were a bit disappointed in the first 20 minutes [against the Bulls] when our execution wasn't quite there, but in saying that we created a lot of opportunities.

"We made errors coming on the back of stretching the opposition out but you can't score six tries without trying stuff and we're happy with the intent and the attacking mindset."

Mauger said the speech of returning wing Zac Guildford after two months of self-exclusion as he worked through his alcohol issues had provided the Crusaders with extra motivation for the Bulls clash.

"Zac came in on Friday and spoke really well to the boys and probably inspired a few of them. It was pretty emotional and he was pretty brave getting up and being honest to the players and I think they respected that."

Guildford attended his first full Crusaders training on Monday and appeared in good condition, but Mauger said he was no certainty for the 22-man team to play the Southern Kings from South Africa in Christchurch on Saturday.

"We'll assess where he is at today and check his fitness. Obviously he's got a bit of homework to do so we'll make that decision in the next 24 to 48 hours."

All Blacks lock Luke Romano, who suffered a rib cartilage injury against the Blues, also trained and he, too, faces a midweek fitness test to determine his availability.

Apart from the usual bumps and bruises expected from the highly physical confrontation with the Bulls, Mauger said the team had no serious injury concerns.

However, there will be at least one change on the bench with reserve hooker Ben Funnell suspended for a week for a dangerous tackle against the Bulls. He will be replaced by rookie rake Codie Taylor.