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Crusaders look for new Super Rugby edge

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/01/2017 Angelo Risso
Scott Robertson © Getty Images/Martin Hunter Scott Robertson

Endless pre-season laps are out and ball skills are in for the Crusaders in 2017 as new boss Scott Robertson places his imprint on the side.

Having fallen out of 2016 Super Rugby in the quarter-finals, the Crusaders head into the new season keen to secure their first crown in nine years.

Most of the squad's All Blacks stars, including skipper Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock and Israel Dagg, are yet to return to pre-season action.

But for the remainder of the squad, Robertson has introduced a new regimen of increased ballwork, game management and squad structure.

That includes new Test midfield recruit Seta Tamanivalu, who has reportedly arrived in Christchurch in top nick physically.

"The boys had a rugby ball in their hands on day one of pre-season, so we did a lot of skillset-relevant activities," assistant coach Jason Ryan said.

"We looked at the review of how we can make things better, and one of the things was perhaps getting into a little rugby activity earlier."

Like other Super Rugby franchises, the Crusaders are also mixing up aspects of their physical conditioning by introducing gymnastics and wrestling.

Ryan hoped he and Robertson could produce a more clinical forward pack in 2017, despite already having both Franks and incumbent Test loosehead Joe Moody.

Seven of the Crusaders' eight-man first-choice forward pack are capped.

"There's mostly the same personnel but we want to be able to attack a little bit more and be a little more dominant up front than we were," Ryan said.

One player who's new to the Crusaders environment is Manawatu blindside Heiden Bedwell-Curtis.

The 25-year-old, who spent the last two years in the Hurricanes' train-on squad, was a provincial championship stand-out in 2015 and 2016.

He says returning to his hometown and playing alongside the likes of Read and openside Matt Todd is a dream come true.

"I've just been chipping away at Mitre 10 Cup for four years now, it's definitely been a goal of mine to make Super Rugby," Bedwell-Curtis said.

"Now I'm here, I'm just going to put my best foot forward, give it a good nudge."

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