Crusaders next generation taking opportunity

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If anything, in the face of Covid issues that forced the withdrawal of Oli Jager, Zach Gallagher, Mitch Drummond and Dominic Gardiner, the strength of the Crusaders' system was borne out by the quality of younger players given a playing chance with the side.


Coach Scott Robertson said replacement hooker George Bell scored from his first touch of the ball while usual tighthead prop Seb Calder performed well in holding the scrum up on the loosehead side.


As 19-year-olds, they were given dispensation from New Zealand Rugby to play, but there was no expectation they would play.


"At the start of the week they weren't expecting to play and now they did and they were superb."


Robertson said he only met another replacement player Liam Hallam-Earnes on Saturday. He rolled his ankle in the warm-up but played on near the end of the game.


It was an example of how good the Crusaders' Academy was that players could go straight into a game at Super Rugby level.


"They were big enough, strong enough, mentally tough enough to be ready," he said.



He said talk of the Crusaders' golden era being over was only natural. It was a good storyline in the media.


It was all part of success, and they expected it.


"We've still got to focus on ourselves and get ourselves right. People are really desperate and we have got to meet that with hunger. Each week, every year gets harder and we've got to keep motivating ourselves internally and inspire the group which is a great challenge," he said.


Captain David Havili said he was happy with the win. They showed their resilience after losing to the Waratahs and produced the performance they wanted to get their game back on track.


The challenge of facing the Brumbies at the weekend in Canberra was a good one. They were setting the tone on both sides of the Tasman, Havili said.


"This game set us up for a great battle next week and these are the games you want to be part of. We are looking forward to it," he said.


Havili said the defensive work done under assistant coach Tamati Ellison was a boost for the side and had contributed to wearing the Force down and creating the chances taken so well by fullback Will Jordan and wing Leicester Fainga'anuku.


Robertson will have team captain and lock Scott Barrett and hooker Codie Taylor back for the Brumbies, but he was pleased with the way younger players introduced for the game performed.


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