Belief still high in Crusaders' camp

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Lynn McConnell     18 Jul 2017     Getty Images

Their loss meant they now had to face the Highlanders in their quarter final in Christchurch on Saturday.

Assistant coach Leon MacDonald said there were always positives to be taken from games and the Crusaders had not suddenly become a poorer side because of the loss.

Any quarter final was a good one so far as he was concerned. The competition lifted in the play-offs stages and to be at home for the quarter final with the Highlanders was great.

"What a game of rugby it's going to be. If the last two games are anything to go by there will be a bit of drama and a cliff hanger.

"Any team is going to be tough. The Highlanders it is and we are into it," he said.

The teams knew each other well and it was likely the game could be decided by the team that executed better or which came up with a special play that made the difference.

Having won both games this year they felt a degree of confidence, something which was helped by having home advantage.

"It's just about delivering now and getting out there and doing the job. We didn't do it at the weekend, we're well aware of that," he said.

There had been plenty to take from the loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington, the game that cost the Crusaders the lead in the competition.

"We had great effort, great intensity and we threw a lot at them but we definitely weren't accurate enough and gave away too many penalties when we had them under pressure and gave them easy outs," he said.

That was a great lesson for the side heading into the finals because you couldn't make those mistakes in knockout games.

"If you put teams under pressure you have to keep them under pressure, you can't let them off the hook," he said.

"It just shows how important discipline is in everything."

MacDonald didn't think the Crusaders showed the effects of their month off as their first two tries in the game showed they had the cohesion.

"There were plenty of times in the game when our cohesion was very good but it was more around the other side when we were applying pressure without the ball through our defence that would let them off the hook so I think we'll be better for it," he said.

Having been exposed to knockout games through his own time as a player MacDonald said there wasn't a lot different about preparing for the game. There was more pressure because of the need for the right result but it was important not to get hung up on that.

The players needed to be clear and calm and excited about the challenge, he said.