Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021: Crusaders embracing pre-season COVID-19 uncertainty

The Crusaders are used to facing adversity and after this week's COVID-19 alert level changes forced the cancellation of 'Footy Fest' against the Blues, the defending Super Rugby Aotearoa champions are embracing the challenge. 

After a massive scramble, the men from the south were confirmed to play a 'game of three halves' against the Blues and Chiefs in Cambridge on Saturday.

With Monday marking 10 years since the tragic Canterbury earthquake - which forced the Crusaders to play all their home games away from Christchurch, including one at Twickenham in London - this week's cancellation, then rescheduling of pre-season matches is something they're taking in their stride. 

"We were OK with it," Robertson says. "I took the information and was asked 'could this work?' and said 'yeah, let's go it's great and we'll adapt'. 

"One thing the last year-and-a-bit has taught us is the opportunity to play is a good thing. There were about five permutations going on. 

"If it was back at Level 1 in Auckland, we were back to Eden Park, but we ended up in a great place and the boys have embraced it."

Robertson has confirmed the side’s All Blacks will return for 40 minutes of game-time. The Crusaders will play the Chiefs in the first half and welcome back inspirational captain Scott Barrett, who'll lead the side, while Codie Taylor will captain the second-half side against the Blues.

"[Barrett] had a tough year last season and as a captain, to be out for the majority of it, he took it hard," Robertson says. "He came back and played some great footy for the All Blacks, he's in great condition and a real leader, so the boys follow him."

The Super Rugby Aotearoa season has snuck up on everyone and the Crusaders start their campaign in just six days.

"We need a bit of pressure on us, as we've trained a lot," he says. "We have a massive game under the roof against the Highlanders, so we got to be on. 

"One good thing about the All Blacks only allowed to play 40 minutes is the other guys get to play.  

"Having two clear teams is a real opportunity for us, guys are putting their hands up for the week after, so performance really counts." 

1st half team - Crusaders v Chiefs

1.Joe Moody, 2.Brodie McAlister, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Scott Barrett (c), 5.Quinten Strange, 6.Ethan Blackadder, 7.Tom Christie, 8.Cullen Grace, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12.David Havili (vc), 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Sevu Reece, 15.Will Jordan

2nd Half Team - Crusaders v Blues

1.George Bower, 2.Codie Taylor (c), 3.Fletcher Newell, 4.Mitchell Dunshea, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Ethan Blackadder, 7.Sione Havili Talitui, 8.Whetukamokamo Douglas, 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Fergus Burke, 11.Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12.Dallas McLeod, 13.Rene Ranger, 14.Chay Fihaki, 15.Josh McKay

Join us for live updates of Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021, starting with the Highlanders v Crusaders on February 26