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Super Rugby Semi-final - Chiefs v Crusaders
Refreshed Crusaders ready to rumble Chiefs
July 22, 2013

The Crusaders are firing at the business end of the Super Rugby competition due to the judicious management of the team's returning All Blacks, Sam Whitelock says.

The seven-time champions outclassed Queensland Reds at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday to set up a semi-final against the defending champions, the Chiefs, at Waikato Stadium, where the sides clashed at the same stage of the 2012 tournament. The Chiefs prevailed 12 months ago, but several of the Crusaders' All Blacks seemed jaded after playing against Ireland in the June Tests.

Whitelock said the Crusaders identified that problem and had addressed the issue with their All Blacks who had carried heavy workloads in the three Tests against France either rested or named in the reserves against the Highlanders when the Super Rugby competition resumed.

"This year we were expected to play well when we came back," Whitelock said at Crusaders training on Monday. "The whole squad and management embraced that challenge, and when the All Blacks came back they were on the bench or didn't play. Some guys like Luke Romano played three Tests in a row and was pretty beaten up so Tom Donnelly stepped in and played awesome and kept the competition going for positions."

Sam Whitelock made a key break against Queensland Reds © Getty Images
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Whitelock said careful player management had spared them from being flogged. "We've been able to keep the bodies in shape and hopefully that's something we can keep doing - being smart rather than doing too much and being fresh when you go out there and not having heavy legs."

Whitelock was not prepared to accept that the Crusaders had inflicted psychological scars on the Chiefs in hammering them 43-15 in Christchurch recently, saying "it doesn't matter what happened before or where you are on the table - you've just got to win this game."

Super Rugby semi-finals

July 26

1-Chiefs v 4-Crusaders, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

2-Bulls v 3-Brumbies, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Super Rugby final

August 3

Winner of the two semi-finals, with the highest-ranked team to host the match


Follow live text commentary of the Super Rugby semi-final between the Chiefs and the Crusaders on Saturday, July 27, from 7pm (NZT), 5pm (EST), 7am (GMT)

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview the Super Rugby semi-finals
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