Far from feeling aggrieved about being back on the road after only one game at home in nearly two years, the Crusaders are actually enjoying being in camp and living out of suitcases again.

The team spent more time away from Christchurch than in the shaky city last season - a predicament they referred to as the "new normal" - and last week played their first game in Christchurch for nearly two years when they christened their new temporary stadium at Rugby League Park with an emotional 28-21 win over the Cheetahs.

They had little time to reflect on that, however, as they once again packed their bags and boarded a plane for the long journey to South Africa to meet the Lions and Bulls in consecutive weeks.

"I think it's actually come at a good time for us," coach Todd Blackadder said. "We have never gone [to South Africa] so early in the competition before so it's new ground for us.


"We are in really good nick. There's a lot of energy in the team and everyone has adjusted to the time zone and are prepared. It certainly doesn't feel like Groundhog Day. The guys are really enjoying being together. It's a new team, with a lot of new guys.

"The guys want to do well so my expectations are that we are going to have a really good two weeks and put a good performance on the track, one that we want to walk away from feeling really proud of. And get some points. Points are critical."

It will help that Daniel Carter is back from his groin injury and will make his first start of the season. He played 40 minutes off the bench against the Cheetahs last weekend and showed some good touches. His first was to put centre Robbie Fruean away for a try.

Carter's poise and experience will be critical, especially in a hostile environment like Ellis Park with its rowdy crowd. The Lions have said they will target Carter because of his importance and the fact he's coming back from a long layoff, but it's something the world's best first five-eighths has heard countless times before.

"We aren't expecting him to work miracles," skipper Kieran Read said.

"Everyone watches how Dan plays and he's going to put in a top-class performance most weeks. We expect him to run our game plan and do it really well. It's up to us as a team to back him up and make his comeback work really smoothly."