WELLINGTON - The Canterbury Crusaders need to exceed what they produced in their regular season clash in May if they are to beat the Wellington Hurricanes in Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final, assistant coach Brad Mooar has said.
The Crusaders went in as underdogs in the May 25 match, missing several All Blacks, but totally shut down the Hurricanes in wet and cold conditions to record a 24-13 victory. The result ended the visitors' 10-match winning streak and sent them into a downward spiral.
The Hurricanes lost four of their final five games to lurch into the quarter-finals as the fourth seeds, but lifted their performance against the Waikato Chiefs last week to set up the showdown with the eight-times champions.
"We put on a performance that we thought was pretty clinical, but that won't be enough this time," Mooar said of their victory in May. "In the semi-final the big players get up and we expect (Hurricanes flyhalf) Beauden Barrett to bring his best game, as with all their players. We have to be at our best to beat the best."
Barrett's performance in that match was arguably one of his worst of the season as the Hurricanes game managers struggled to play to the conditions, choosing to run the ball at every opportunity. The Crusaders, led by flyhalf Richie Mo'unga, played a territory game and kept the ball in the air and behind the Hurricanes and put pressure on the 2016 champions inside their own half.
Hurricanes assistant coach, Jason Holland, was adamant the team would not repeat the mistakes this week at Rugby League Park and would be able to adapt their game plan on the fly if needed.
"We've learnt from that game ... if it happened again, we'd nail it this weekend," Holland said. "As in we'd know when to kick, when to run and what it looked like when we wanted to do both of those.
"If we haven't prepared as well as we need to do, for the possible situations that we could get, then we find ourselves under pressure. If we prepare properly, as we have done in the last few weeks to get that right, we'll be right."