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Fijian rumble excites Crusaders' Crotty

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/05/2017 Angelo Risso

Just 100 metres separates the Crusaders' hotel in Suva and their training ground for Friday night's Super Rugby derby clash with the Chiefs.

Yet, in the walk from one spot to the other, Test regular Ryan Crotty must have been stopped at least 10 times on Wednesday for a chat and sneaky selfie.

Fiji has gone Super Rugby mad ahead of the all-Kiwi showdown on Friday, pitting the New Zealand conference's top two sides against each other in the tropics.

With a win, the Crusaders could all but seal a home quarter-final berth as champions of their conference - but locking down a potential home grand final over the Johannesburg-based Lions, on top of Africa 2, is another matter entirely.

A loss, meanwhile, would blow the Kiwi conference wide open.

But for now, Crotty and his teammates are taking it one step at a time, acclimatising to sticky Suva and mingling with the locals over kava.

"You get the impression it's the biggest thing going on in Fiji this weekend, so it should make for an awesome spectacle," the Crusaders second-five said.

"It's going to be tough, conditions will make it tough, so it's important you have your tactical plan right and also individually, dealing with the humidity.

"You drop a game and you find yourself in fifth or sixth (place)."

The Crusaders have been near-flawless in 2017, going unbeaten in their first 11 matches and outclassing the Hurricanes 20-12 last weekend.

Yet the Waikato-based Chiefs have had the wood over their Cantabrian foes in recent years, racking up a three-year winning streak, including last year's fixture in Suva.

The 26 All Black test-capped Crotty didn't play in that 23-13 reverse, having just returned from test duty, but said the result still rankles within the playing group.

"It's only added motivation to those boys who've been in those contests," Crotty said.

"They're (Chiefs) a smart side, they always bring physicality and niggle - you just expect that from New Zealand teams, you've got to match the intensity."

Long-term injury absentees Kieran Read and Israel Dagg have not travelled to Fiji with the squad, nor has crocked test lock Scott Barrett.

However the return of skipper Sam Whitelock from a two-match suspension is a major boost for the side, as is the recent form of first-five Richie Mo'unga.

The 22-year-old has been in fine nick since returning from a broken hand, guiding his side across the park with aplomb and kicking steadily.

He has made five try assists in 2017.

"He plays what he sees and backs himself, that's the main thing, and he's really become a leader in our team, drives a lot of things in our environment," Crotty said.

"He has a real voice - you have to as a No.10, but he's really come into that role."

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