Rugby: Enjoyment key for Whitelock at Crusaders

"Enjoying the job" is going to be a big thing for the Crusaders this year as they chase the Super Rugby title that has eluded them since 2008.

Senior player George Whitelock, who has captained Canterbury to NPC titles and was the Crusaders skipper for the opening pre-season match against the Hurricanes last week, said that was something they were concentrating on this year.

"I think most of all you've got to enjoy your job, and may be we've gone away from that in the last couple of years a wee bit," he said.

"So the main focus is, if we enjoy turning up every day, we'll enjoy playing for the Crusaders, and getting those good performances out on the field. The closer we are off the field, the better we'll be on it as well."

Last week's bonding in the boondocks was part of that philosophy.

Whitelock said it helped the new players get to know the senior All Blacks and senior players to meet the new Tasman signings "in a casual environment or out on the hills hunting".

When the team was split into six foraging groups, Whitelock led five other players in country he knows well at the back of the Clarence, where Nepo Laulala, Tyler Bleyendaal, and Willi Heinz each shot a pig and Israel Dagg bagged a deer. Whitelock's contribution was two goats.

The Crusaders had a wild food feast in Hanmer on the Thursday night.

Whitelock was also in Dan Carter's group that hitch-hiked via West Coast centres to Hanmer, "so getting picked up didn't take too long".

The Crusaders meet the Highlanders in Oamaru on Friday night after their one-point loss to the Hurricanes, and Whitelock said that in the first three quarters of the game in Timaru they stuck to their plan and got some good results from it.

In the last quarter as energy levels dropped they were a bit slow to get into positions on defence and on attack, he said.

However, they were trying combinations and new ideas, and under fatigue it was what they wanted to do - "test it under pressure and see if it works".

Asked if the Zac Guildford row had affected the team, Whitelock said "it's obviously been a bit of an issue for the media, but the team's 100 per cent behind him, but at the same time it's his personal time to sort out that."

- Nick Tolerton of the Christchurch Star