Super Rugby's most successful franchise, the Crusaders, are determined to reproduce the distinctive high-paced game that have won them seven titles.
Crusaders captain Kieran Read, speaking to this website in an exclusive interview, said they are going to employ the very effective and entertaining approach that has been their hallmark since the South Islanders' first success back in 1998.
Then there is the incredible dept, another feature of the Christchurch-based outfit.
Despite the absence of All Black captain Richie McCaw (on a six-month sabbatical), as well as the departure of other internationals - like Ben Franks (to the Hurricanes), Zac Guildford (withdrew for personal reasons) and Sean Maitland (to Scotland, where he earned his first Test cap last week), the Crusaders remain a team of high quality across the board.
The Crusaders squad includes nine new faces, but 23 players returned from the 2012 campaign.
"We typically have always based ourselves on our strong forwards and attacking outside backs," Read told this website, when asked about the qualities of the 2013 squad.
"This year we will look to unleash them and work on our whole game.
"We are also working on strength and conditioning to ensure our ultimate fitness," he added.
Four of the new faces - Dominic Bird, Johnny McNicholl, Joe Moody and Codie Taylor - were part of the Crusaders' wider training group last year and all four were part of the Canterbury squad that took out the NPC Premiership competition for a third consecutive year in 2012.
The Crusaders started their pre-season with a one-point (26-27) loss to the Hurricanes in Timaru last Saturday), and will follow that up with matches against the Highlanders and Waratahs.
Read said the results of the pre-season games are not important.
"It is about the team performance, ensuring everyone gets a run and building towards the first game of the competition," the Crusaders skipper said of their trip to Auckland on March 1, where they take on the Blues.
They have a bye when the competition gets underway in February.
"It's a good opportunity for us to look at our performance and fine tune our play.
"We take a lot of learnings from our pre-season games."
By Jan de Koning
* Look out for Part Two of our exclusive interview with Kieran Read, when we speak to him about his goals and the absence of Richie McCaw!
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