Crusaders expecting finals fireworks against the Highlanders

The familiarity of the Highlanders won't make them an easier foe on Saturday night according to Crusaders assistant coach Leon MacDonald.

The Crusaders' failure to finish their regular season with a win meant that, what was likely to be a quarter final match-up against the Sharks, turned into a blockbuster southern derby against the Highlanders.

It'll be the fifth time the teams have met this season, following two trial matches (pre-season and during the international break) and two Super Rugby round robin games.

"It helps the coaches because we don't have to come up with 1000 new clips," MacDonald said.

"I don't know whether that helps or not, we just know it's going to be tough and we have to prepare accordingly, and we'll do so."

In both competition matches this season, it's been the southern men that's by-and-large got the better of the Crusaders, leading them in the final five minutes of each before last-gasp plays stole the win for the Cantabs.

MacDonald expects the occasion to outdo their previous meetings in 2017.

"If it's anything like the last two games, it's going to be a bit of drama and a cliff-hanger."

"This is where the competition amps up and to be at home is great and what a game of rugby it's going to be.

"We know their game, they know our game, it's going to be who executes better. It might be a little special play you come up that might make the difference."

It hasn't been the ideal launch-pad into the finals series for the Crusaders.

Outmuscled and outthought in Wellington in their final regular season match against the Hurricanes, they'll rely on the return of a few All Blacks to fix some holes made by the defending champions.

MacDonald was confident that if they crossed the t's and dot the lower case j's, they'd get the job done.

"The small things matter, the scrum matters, the lineout accuracy matters, the backline defense and attack matters and it's just about getting them all right.

"We've won two from two [against the Highlanders this season] and we can take the confidence with us and we know we're good enough. We're at home, it's a knockout game and it's important to us it's just about delivering now and getting out there and doing the job and we didn't do it on the weekend."