KEY RETURN: Ryan Crotty's return will help strengthen the Crusaders defence and attack in the Super Rugby quarter-final clash with the Highlanders.
KEY RETURN: Ryan Crotty's return will help strengthen the Crusaders defence and attack in the Super Rugby quarter-final clash with the Highlanders. Ross Setford

All Blacks strengthen Crusaders quarter-finals hopes

THE CRUSADERS welcome four members of the All Blacks tight five for their Super Rugby quarter-final on Saturday but it is the return return of all-purpose Test back Ryan Crotty they are most excited about.

The 28-year-old hasn't played in month after injuring his hamstring against the British and Irish Lions but coach Scott Robertson expects him to as influential as ever.

With rain and cold conditions predicted for their Christchurch clash with the Highlanders, Robertson says Crotty will be key to his side's success.

"He's huge for us," Robertson said.

"Obviously the experience and his ability to understand the game with the calls and defensively he shows the way.

"We've got to be better in a lot of areas. Clear and obvious at the breakdown and just trust our system a lot more than we have."

With the threat of All Blacks halfback and kicking maestro Aaron Smith looming, Robertson has introduced a number of positional changes.

David Havili moves to fullback, All Blacks veteran swaps No.15 for No.14 and Seta Tamanivalu shifts to the left wing.

"Aaron Smith is a world class box kicker so for us we have to make sure we catch them," Robertson said.

"It's a good balance in our back three so we can expect a lot with their aerial attack and cover it with those players."

News Corp Australia


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