Tahuriorangi set for Crusaders debut against Moana Pasifika

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Tahuriorangi had moved south to refresh his career. Opportunities in the last few years had not been great with the Chiefs. He had injury issues through 2019-20, rival halfback Brad Weber had lifted his game to another level while Covid-19 had also interrupted the last two seasons.


"It was tough to find game time," he said.


"It was probably good for me to have a fresh start with the Crusaders and concentrate on himself."


Tahuriorangi said he was enjoying the transition. The depth the Crusaders could call on had impressed him.


"If one guy goes down [injured] another guy can fill that jersey easily," he said.


"That's something I've been admiring and that goes back to the preparation these boys do throughout the week."


Halfbacks Bryn Hall and Mitch Drummond were good mates and they trained well together, he said.


“It's been awesome seeing them go about their work. All three of us are keen to try and get a start and that brings the best out of each other and it's probably the best for all of us.”

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi


Adding interest to the game is the return of All Blacks' first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga.


Coach Scott Robertson said it had been intended he played a development side game before his Super Rugby return, but those games were cancelled. So, he was named on the bench to give him some game time before looking to play out the remainder of the New Zealand part of the competition.


"He's ready, he's excited. It's pretty hard for him to have watched from afar but that's the reason he's had this little break so he can come in hot," he said.



Preparing for an untested side was based around respect for what they had been through and for their players.


"They'll be a tight group from all the adversity they have been through already. They might be shy of a game or a hit-out, but they'll be motivated for a lot of reasons to play well," he said.


The time in Queenstown had been unique for the Crusaders, Robertson said. It was akin to a camp at the start of the season, and it offered the chance to bond. That was beneficial for the side, with younger players spending longer talking with more experienced players.


Of the newcomers in the side, Robertson said Kini Naholo had impressed over the past month and had worked hard to get his body to the level to train week in and week out and had X-factor, the ability to beat a player, and he knew the way to the goal line.


Fullback Chay Fihaki had a big boot and could cover the backfield well.


"He's a good finisher, there's a lot to like about him at fullback. He played for us a couple of times there last year, and in the NPC, so he's more than capable. We're excited for him to have a crack, especially under the roof to show his skills," he said.


Isaiah Punivai has the chance to make his debut off the bench. Robertson said it had been hard last season to give him an opportunity. He was excited to get his chance, he said.



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