For the first four rounds of this year's Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, the Crusaders put themselves under more pressure at training than they felt during the matches themselves.
On the field they beat the Highlanders, Hurricanes, Chiefs and Blues by respective margins of 13, 17, 22 and 16 points. They turned the much-anticipated clash against the Blues at Eden Park into a bit of a damp squib. A week earlier in Christchurch they had humiliated the Chiefs' set piece.
A fifth title appeared theirs almost by default, such was the gap to the chasing pack, and therefore there was a need to replicate game pressure at their Rugby Park headquarters. Proper, intense, backs-to-the-wall pressure. Because their rivals couldn't.
"The belief comes from competing at training," assistant coach Jason Ryan told me before their shock home defeat to the Highlanders in round six. "We put these boys under immense pressure at training and that helps their belief. We need to keep doing that because there have been little parts of games where teams have put pressure on us. But I don't believe we've really been put in the hurt locker and had to respond yet. We have to keep doing that [driving standards under pressure] because it will come."
It has come all right. It has arrived with all the ruthlessness of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Better kicking games, better defences, more urgency at the breakdown and far better scrummaging efforts from their rivals have brought the Crusaders back to the pack.
That record defeat to the Highlanders was followed by a golden point win over the Hurricanes thanks to David Havili's dropped goal, and a defeat at the hands of the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Jack Goodhue needs knee surgery and is gone for the year. Joe Moody's foot injury may keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. What once looked like an indestructible juggernaut is losing its steering and entering an off-camber corner. Any further loss of control and they're off the side of the cliff.
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Which makes the next few weeks as important and pressure-filled as any that head coach Scott Robertson has faced over the past two years at least. Last year the Crusaders won the competition with a game in hand (there was no final). This time they could guarantee themselves a May 8 home final by beating the Blues in Christchurch on Sunday.
But such is their dip in form and the rise of their rivals (perhaps excluding the Blues who self-destructed in Dunedin last weekend), that there will be genuine concern at their headquarters that they could miss out on what will be a lucrative final gate at their ramshackle stadium held together by scaffolding and sticky tape.
Even if they beat the Blues, their bye a week later could throw another spanner in the works. The Crusaders' ham-fisted performance against the Highlanders came after their first bye of the season; another bad omen for their supporters, perhaps. If this is indeed the toughest domestic rugby competition in the world, then it is getting the denouement it deserves.
If the man known as Razor does navigate them to another title, it would rate as his most significant since his first with the side in 2017. Then, he took what in the previous five years had been a badly under-performing side to the grand final in Johannesburg where they won in front of 62,000 predominantly Lions supporters. It was a triumph of self-belief and utter commitment.
A year later, the Crusaders hosted the travel-weary Lions. In 2019, it was the Jaguares' turn to fall at the final hurdle in the Garden City.
They have the players to do it again, but now their coaches - Robertson and Ryan and the others - need to turn that pressure on themselves to find a way. They need to put themselves in the hurt locker and they need to respond.