Assistant coach Scott Hansen said the Highlanders, like the other franchises, were growing their performances. He felt the Highlanders were playing good rugby and using the ball well and that the Crusaders faced a big challenge against them.
Hansen said when the side regrouped, after their bye, individuals were given challenges of continuing to grow their game to be at their best. That was because the capacity of other sides to perform was getting better, he said.
The Crusaders would also have George Bridge available for selection this week after his recovery from injury. He had got through his development game well. He brought energy to the Crusaders, and it was great to have him back, Hansen said.
"He's come back really well, he's focused on his rehab and recovery, he always gives us great energy out here [at training] and he's putting his hand up already," he said.
Individual improvement would combine to lift the overall performance of the side.
Competition for places in the side was not an issue for the Crusaders due to their squad depth. Hansen said the selection group were having some tough discussions with players left out of sides.
But that was also a driving force within the side and a contributing factor for their success.
While the Highlanders had slumped after the start they made to the season, the Crusaders were not taking them, or any of the other New Zealand sides likely because it was a fact, he said, that any team was capable of beating others on their day.
The Highlanders got good value out of halfback Aaron Smith, who was able to get good ball moving quickly, and they had attacking hands. Much of their play was built around quick momentum. When sides had that and were on the front foot, they took the referee out of the game and forcing defences to make a lot of quick decisions.
"So the Highlanders, when they are getting quick ball, are very dangerous," he said.