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Crusaders take lessons from All Blacks as they aim to keep unbeaten run alive against the Stormers (Video)

Ryan Crotty, captured in his last outing against the Waratahs in Sydney on April 2, is in the final year of his contract with NZ Rugby and is understood to be attracting keen interest from overseas clubs.

"Oh, mate, wouldn't that be the secret eh?"

Ryan Crotty's response to a query about what the unbeaten Crusaders are doing so different this year, to catapult them to seven straight wins in Super Rugby, hardly satiates your curiosity.

Maybe it's not as simple as just pointing out a few things without getting a few noses out of joint in an organisation, which like other professional sports clubs, likes to keep its trade secrets out of the public domain.

Ryan Crotty proves he has recovered from his ankle injury as he trains with the Crusaders ahead of the match against the Stormers in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Obviously the new coaching staff, headed by the uber-enthusiastic boss Scott Robertson, have provided fresh ideas and a different perspective on how strategies and plays can be implemented and often fresh voices can also work wonders.

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Yet it is not as if the Crusaders have completely re-written the playbooks used under former head coach Todd Blackadder.

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When they plan to go wide, they will, but if they want to be more direct and park the ball under the noses of their forwards they can just as easily revert to lineout drives or try to bust their opponents' scrums apart at the seams.

Yes, they are clever enough to vary their attack, but they hardly had their tactical minds wrapped in a wet blanket in previous years.

Fortune has played a part in the Crusaders' terrific run.

So has their give-it-your-all attitude and their knack of making passes stick, whereas in previous seasons they might have gone to ground; following a solid win against the Brumbies in round one, they required epic comebacks against the Highlanders, Reds and Blues to mop-up their wins.

As a consequence, their confidence levels kept building. And without a doubt, the 41-22 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney on April 2 was their most compelling performance to date.

"Belief - you have seen that from the close games we have come back from this year," second five-eighth Crotty explained.

"Maybe in past seasons those results might not have gone our way. Winning builds belief and effort, and character builds belief in each other.

"You could see how hard we were working in those earlier games to really fight to get those wins. And also having so many new guys come in and perform.

"I think we have had something like 15 or 16 new Crusaders this year, and with those guys coming in there is the belief they can do the job."

Crotty, who missed the 50-3 rout over the Sunwolves last weekend because of the ankle injury he suffered against the Waratahs, knows from his experiences with the All Blacks about what a magic ingredient self-confidence can be.

The 28-year-old, who has earned 26 test caps and started 11 internationals last year as the selectors leaned on him to provide leadership in a midfield shorn of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, and with Sonny Bill Williams unavailable because of injury, knows how the world's best team can feed off their own success. The Crusaders, too, have built momentum.

"It is kind of similar to the All Blacks," Crotty said in reference to the self-confidence within the squad.

"It is a wee bit like that. Obviously we are living our theme which is an in-house kind of thing and that adds to it as well.

"I don't know if we are working any harder than we have (in the past). But the boys are just giving 100 and it is helping us get over the line with the close ones."

Now for the Stormers, their first South African opponent of the season, who they will meet in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Until their 29-16 loss to the Lions last weekend the Stormers had won their first six fixtures, a stretch that included a 34-26 victory over the Chiefs in Cape Town.

Captained by aggressive Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth in the absence of Siya Kolisi, they sit at the top of the Africa 1 pool.

The addition of former Blues assistant Paul Feeney as an attack and skills coach has coincided with the Stormers counter-attacking more efficiently, and shedding the blinkers when looking for support.

"They still have that South African DNA, but they are trying to evolve aren't they?," Crotty added."They are trying to play the offloading game, counter-attack and shift it. Potentially that comes with the Kiwi coach doing a bit of work with them.

"Our defence, our double shoulders into contact are going to have to be really on-song to tie up that offload and the stop their support players. That is what they did really well against the Chiefs."

Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Bryn Hall, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.

Stormers: Dillyn Leyds, Cheslin Kolbe, EW Viljoen, Dan du Plessis, Bjorn Basson, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Nizaam Carr, Chris van Zyl, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, JC Janse van Rensburg. Reserves: Ramone Samuels, Oli Kebble, Frans Malherbe, Jan de Klerk, Cobus Wiese, Jano Vermaak, Kurt Coleman, Dan Kriel

Referee: Paul Williams (NZ)

Kick-off: 7.35pm

Stuff

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