The reality of Super Rugby has quickly hit for rivals Scott Robertson and Tony Brown in their first seasons as head coaches.

Both have lost a key back after round one, with Richie Mo'unga and Ben Smith injured, and of the two teams who face each other in Dunedin on Saturday it is perhaps the Crusaders who are worst off.

First-five Mo'unga, who fractured a hand in his team's victory over the Brumbies in Christchurch, started every match for the Crusaders last season and has been ruled out for up to eight weeks following surgery.

All Blacks fullback Smith suffered concussion in the Highlanders' loss to the Chiefs and will miss the next two matches at least.

Advertisement

The Crusaders will back their depth to cover the absence of 22-year-old Mo'unga - specifically Marty McKenzie and Mitchell Hunt, with the latter impressing at the pre-season Brisbane Global 10s tournament.

But Mo'unga showed in filling Dan Carter's boots so well last season that he will be missed. He is a young man who knows what he wants and how to get it - as a 14-year-old he seized the opportunity provided by his parents' holiday in Australia to get his first Samoan and Tongan tattoos - so confidence and decisiveness clearly aren't issues for him.

The Highlanders, meanwhile, have Matt Faddes as Smith's replacement after the All Black suffered concussion when his head hit the turf, an injury which will have grabbed the attention of Steve Hansen as much as Highlanders coach Brown.

Faddes didn't have the easiest of nights after his first-half substitution as his team put in an error-ridden performance, but he was a quality operator for the Highlanders last year and possesses pace and the ability to make something from nothing on attack.

The injuries to Mo'unga and Smith over the weekend were by far the most serious suffered by the five New Zealand teams.

Another potential blow for Robertson is Seta Tamanivalu's hamstring niggle which forced him to leave the field against the Brumbies. Tamanivalu, an off-season signing from the Chiefs, offers a point of difference for the red and blacks with his power on attack.

But overall, while Brown will be bitterly disappointed with the Highlanders' defeat after they dominated the Chiefs but failed to put them away, Robertson should be quietly satisfied with the Crusaders.

A couple of mistakes let the Brumbies off the hook, and Robertson's forwards provided a pushover try against a relatively tough Aussie pack who are no mugs in this area.
Robertson should also welcome back flanker Matt Todd, a late withdrawal against the Brumbies due to a leg infection.