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Crusaders aim to counter Lions' attack

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/07/2016

Attack versus counter-attack could be on the menu when the Lions host the Crusaders in their Super Rugby quarter-final in Johannesburg.

The Lions have been this season's top try-scorers with 71 from their 15 matches, and Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty can't see them reining in their expansive game on Sunday morning (NZT).

"I think what you see is what you get," he said.

"They might possibly tighten up their defence, but they kind of live and die by their attack."

The 18-cap All Black believed the Lions were the most similar to the New Zealand sides out of the teams in South African and Australian conferences.

But their style was also "a double-edged sword" from which the seven-time champion Crusaders, who themselves have touched down 65 times this year, could profit.

"It gives them a lot of points but they also turn over a lot of ball and that creates counter-attack opportunities, where we've been pretty strong this year," Crotty said.

"If we can get our defence right and force a few turnovers, we'll give ourselves opportunities to score points again."

The Crusaders' defensive effort was one aspect to come out of their review of their defeat to the Hurricanes in Christchurch last weekend.

Despite the 35-10 scoreline, they pulled of 179 tackles at an accuracy rate of 91 per cent.

"Our defence wasn't too bad, but if you give a team like the Hurricanes that much ball to attack against you, then you're going to have a tough night at the office," Crotty said.

"We were right in it and it just came down to a couple of moments, but we've learnt from that."

The round-robin meeting between the Lions and the Crusaders in April, also at Ellis Park, produced a feast of points, the visitors winning 43-37 after scoring six tries to four, with Crotty bagging a hat-trick.

It was the Crusaders' seventh victory in a row over the Lions, but Crotty doesn't believe history will play a major psychological part in the sudden-death showdown.

"Possibly some of the guys individually might take that on board, but it will be a different beast this week," he said.

"Ellis Park will be pretty full and they will come out fired up."

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