The desire is every bit as intense as it was 12 months ago but this year the Crusaders have fresher legs and minds to tackle the semifinals.

The travel slog of last year where they didn't have a home ground is now a distant memory and all anyone was thinking last night was that they are ready to repeat the quality of their performance against the Bulls.

Finals football is all about pressure - exerting it and dealing with it and the Crusaders managed that with some degree of proficiency. Their energy levels are on the rise and captain Richie McCaw was buzzing after the game.

"I think last year when we got back to Brisbane the energy levels were just starting to lack that bit of zip," said McCaw. "I know that personally because I haven't been to South Africa this year it won't feel like 'here we go again' for me. But we have ended up fourth and we know what because of that you end up where you end up. But I think wherever we are we can get fresh, we can get prepared and there is no reason we can't do well."


That was a view espoused by both Dan Carter and coach Todd Blackadder. The coach felt his side had been clinical for the first 40 minutes but were guilty at times of not exerting all the pressure they could have. There was a desire to play a little too much rugby in their own territory and a few errors that provided the Bulls with opportunities.

But Blackadder was happy to put that down to finals football and he, having captained the side to three titles, knows that all that matters at this stage of the season is that the win is achieved. "I think the energy levels are pretty good - this is a motivated group and I think they have more to come," said Blackadder.

"We could have played a bit more for possession, but we didn't allow them to build any momentum and we are just happy to be having another game," said McCaw.

- Herald on Sunday