Success can take an edge off a team but not, it seems, the Crusaders. At least, not yet.

The defending champions finished well over the top of the their old rivals the Chiefs in their first match, and in scoring 31 points in the first 40 minutes against the Stormers in Christchurch, they looked determined to put the game beyond doubt before the South Africans had a chance to catch their breath.

Scott Robertson's men did that with desire and no shortage of skill. Their third try – scored by flanker Billy Harmon which put them 19-0 up within the first quarter of the game – reflected how well this team are drilled, and showed that every member knows exactly what his job is at all times.

From an attacking ruck about 10m from the Stormers' line, and the Crusaders apparently well covered defensively, the ball went to first-five Richie Mo'unga, who passed left to Jack Goodhue, the centre passing inside to Harmon, who timed his run from deep for the try.


Before Goodhue got the ball, his midfield partner Ryan Crotty had gone on a dummy run to confuse the defence. It was a case of all the parts being in perfect working order to deliver a perfect result.

It was a move the Crusaders practised before the game, with all players taking turns in the different roles – outside pass, dummy run, inside pass, timed run to try-line, and it was representative of how well prepared Robertson's team are.

It suggests too that the Crusaders will cope reasonably well with Mo'unga's absence due to a broken jaw suffered during the 45-28 win.

They also have form here – Mo'unga missed a significant part of last year's campaign after breaking a bone in a hand in the first match.

He will be out for a couple of months following surgery, but in replacement Mitch Hunt they have a supremely confident 22-year-old who made some key interventions last season – a penalty after the hooter to beat the Reds in Brisbane, and a freakish dropped goal after the hooter to beat the Highlanders in Christchurch.

The Crusaders' pack destroyed the Stormers' set piece at AMI Stadium and in scoring 13 tries during their two bonus point victories they have a players eager to get the ball in their hands and able to be destructive when they do.

They also, now, have an assistant coach in Ronan O'Gara willing to describe Beauden Barrett as the best No10 the world has seen, better even than O'Gara's mate Dan Carter, a man whom urged him to go for the Crusaders' role when the pair were together at Racing Metro in Paris.

The Crusaders did a job on the Hurricanes No10 in Christchurch last season and will be eager to do the same when the teams meet at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

"He's probably nearly redefined number 10 play," O'Gara said.

"Dan was obviously and still is the best 10 in the world, overall for decades. But Beauden Barrett is very exciting and could potentially go on to challenge him for that title. So when you speak of him in that class, by God is he up there."

It was a pre-emptive strike from O'Gara, an attempt to focus the minds of his players.

Barrett, the Hurricanes, and many others will see it for what it is. What is undeniable is that the Crusaders, at this early stage of the season, look a champion side.