These are the games you want to play in - Robertson

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Both sides are unbeaten, and the winner will go a long way towards setting themselves up for a finals berth.

 

Coach Scott Robertson said everyone was excited about the game, and it was a chance to keep the energy raised in Auckland by New Zealand America's Cup defence going.

 

"These games against the Blues over the years have been tough. We've been behind, we've been ahead, they've come back. There's no set story, they are a hell of a match and obviously they've recruited well, they've got a top coaching group and they look like a top group," he said.

 

"It's going to be another great game for our competition which we need. These are the games your teams want to play in," he said.

 

Both sides had good tight fives, and they each enjoyed that part of the game. Backs on both sides wanted to get their hands on the ball, so it had all the hallmarks of a good, balanced game. Both teams would need to be smart, and use their strengths, he said.

Robertson confirmed that flanker Tom Christie's campaign was over. He needed an operation on his shoulder, and his recovery would be assessed after the operation, but he wouldn't play any more in Super Rugby Aotearoa. Brendon O'Connor would cover Christie with another player to be brought in for the injured Tom Sanders.

 

There was a lot of talk before it was decided not to risk wing George Bridge in the game. There was strength in the outside backs, and after the injury, he had it would be better for him to get guaranteed playing time at a level below before stepping back up to start.

 

The game was the fourth consecutive outing for the side before their first bye, and with both the Crusaders and Blues having good starts, it was a chance to get some momentum before coming back for the second leg of the competition.

 

Having had such a close playing and coaching liaison with Blues coach Leon MacDonald, Robertson said it would seem a little strange going up against him, but that was professional sport. MacDonald had been in Auckland long enough to have moved on from his Crusaders connection, and he had earned respect in Auckland working with the Blues.

 

Halfback Bryn Hall will mark his 100th Super Rugby game at Eden Park, where he was first involved with the Blues.

 

But since he had moved south, Robertson said all Hall had done was compete.

 

"When he finishes here we'll know he's left his mark. He loves competing, and he loves winning. He's brought that to this group and he deserves all the hype around this week. It's a combined total [of games] but what he's done for us has been immense," he said.

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