Ethan Blackadder has returned and will be looking to put two seasons of injury frustration behind him, while All Black Cullen Grace has bulked up and added to the versatility in selection for the side's selectors.
Add to that Tom Christie, Tom Sanders and Sione Havili and the competitiveness is obvious.
Experienced No8 Whetukamokamo Douglas said: "It is awesome to have a competitive pack. That's what makes the Crusaders pack so good that you have to put your best foot forward every week and segue into the hit-out this week."
Douglas said the public might have a perception that internal hit-outs were a chance for players to make an impression on prospective rivals within the squad, but the reality was they had been training against each other for three or four weeks during the pre-season.
"It's an internal hit-out, practising what we've been training, but you're also trying to earn a position in the starting pack," he said.
All the excitement of pre-season, all the training was about peaking for the first game this weekend.
"Naturally, everyone is excited about it, even if it is against your mates," he said.
The All Blacks in the squad returned to training this week, and it was immediately apparent that they added more detail to performance in the training sessions.
"Just having them around, they're awesome blokes just to walk through the gym and connect with, has added to an exciting week," he said.