Crusaders on high alert
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder is under no illusions of the challenge facing his young team when they run out against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
Despite having won 72 per cent of their games against the Stormers, Blackadder's troops are taking nothing for granted as they chase a hat-trick of wins over South African opposition.
With bonus-point victories over the Bulls and Kings behind them, the Crusaders face their biggest test yet against the Stormers who are unbeaten at home this season after knocking over the Chiefs and Brumbies.
In what's been billed as the match of the weekend, the seven-time Super Rugby champions know they're in for a battle royale.
"The Stormers are a quality side. We've watched them put away the Chiefs and Brumbies, so they're definitely hitting their straps," Blackadder told SA Rugby.com.
"They're the most successful side on defence, but know how to leave teams battered and bruised too. So you just have to be ready for a physical battle - if not, you'll always end up second best.
"If you make mistakes in your own half or are ill-disciplined, they'll punish you for it.
"And with Jean de Villiers in the midfield, he really knows how to shut attacks down.
"They took their opportunities against the Brumbies last week, and a team that can do that against arguably the in-form side of the tournament makes us very wary indeed."
The Crusaders are definitely a bogey team for the Stormers, who have suffered more defeats to the Kiwi outfit at home than any other visiting teams from Australia and New Zealand.
In comparison to other New Zealand teams in Cape Town the Highlanders (four wins from nine) and Blues (four from seven) have also tasted a fair bit of success against the Stormers in South Africa, but it's the Crusaders who enjoy winning in Cape Town the most - winning five from their nine matches played at Newlands.
However, Blackadder insists the rivalry between his team and the Stormers is one of the best in the competition and relishes every game they play against one another - no matter what the result is in the end.
"They're really good sports," said Blackadder.
"Both teams have a lot of respect for each other. We both play good brands of rugby, we're both passionate, we both don't like losing, and there's a good spirit between the two teams who also have a genuine friendship off the pitch which makes it even more special to play one another."
The Crusaders made a terrible start to the season, dropping their opening two games. But have made a swift recovery and currently occupy fifth spot on the overall standings, whilst a victory over the Stormers will close the five-point gap on the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference (if, of course, the defending champions fail to pick up any points against the Blues this weekend).
However, a third defeat could see them back under pressure with the dangerous Sharks up next on their tour of the Republic.
"It's still early days, so we're not too worried about the win/loss ratio so much for now," said Blackadder.
"What's important is that we learn from our mistakes and grow as a team.
"Even though we didn't win our first two games, we just kept our focus and strived to get better and better every week. And I think we've done that.
"Obviously this weekend is going to be a big one because we're going to be put under a lot more pressure, but as long as we transfer our hard work off the field onto the track... then we're in with a chance."