With two contrasting but equally compelling victories to start the season which displayed the Crusaders' resilience of old, something special might be building at the home of the seven-time champions.

In their first, at home against the Brumbies, they built a lead and grimly defended it in the final 10 minutes.

In their second, against the Highlanders in Dunedin, they were all but out of the match but for an extraordinary fightback which included scoring two tries in
the final five minutes.

It's a fighting attitude that new coach Scott Robertson hopes will remain for the rest of the season but one which has already impressed him. You can do all the team-building you like before a season kicks off - and he has done that as he attempts to mould this squad into his own vision - but it doesn't mean much if it's not replicated on the field.


Their match tomorrow against the Reds in Brisbane represents a slightly easier challenge in theory given the recent form of the Queenslanders. A below-par performance from the Crusaders - and Robertson has made several changes to his team - could undermine that good work, but the signs are positive so far.

"I'm stoked with the attitude and grit within the group and probably the belief to stay in that second game," Robertson said of the comeback. "We played really good footy in both games and haven't taken opportunities while the opposition have, and then fought hard at the end to win them.

"It's been a hell of a start."

Having coached Canterbury and the New Zealand Under-20s, this is Robertson's first taste of Super Rugby and it's just as tough as he imagined. "I'm finding out week to week, I'll be honest. The intensity, especially in the derbies, is desperate. The gun went off a couple of weeks ago and you look at the table and realise how important every point is.

"You need to be especially vigilant every week and realise that every game is special in its own right before we get to August."

The pack, as ever, is the Crusaders' main weapon, and its destruction of the Highlanders' scrum, plus a serious of driving mauls, lit the spark for their comeback.

But there is also an attacking edge that has been missing over the past few years, helped by the good early-season form of All Black Israel Dagg and the excellent transition to this level of Northlander Jack Goodhue, a 21-year-old centre who is clearly more powerful than he looks.

The absence of injured first-five Richie Mo'unga has been handled well so far, thanks in part to Ryan Crotty's leadership at No12, and in scoring two tries this season, including the final one against the Highlanders, Seta Tamanivalu has proven to be an excellent acquisition from the Chiefs.

"Seta has been huge for us," Robertson said. "He's just powerful, he's a great athlete, with an instinct for getting to the try line. He's got a great attitude ... and brings in great energy too."

Another new player, wing Digby Ioane, will make his debut for the Crusaders against the Reds, with whom he helped beat the Crusaders in the final back in 2011. Ioane looked eager to impress at the Brisbane Global 10s and will likewise be keen to make a big impression back at Suncorp Stadium in his first match proper.

"We signed Diggers so he could create opportunities, score tries and give us that little bit of X-factor that you need in wingers," Robertson said. "For him I can imagine it is a little bit emotional [returning], but he is also pretty keen to get the job done and be professional."