Crusaders preview 2013
The Crusaders might be the most successful franchise but it is five years since they last the title.
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 12/02/13 11:45am
And having bowed out in the semi-finals last season - coming on the back of the loss to the Reds in the 2011 final - the pressure is on Todd Blackadder to deliver this time around.
Blackadder has responded by appointing Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger as his assistant coaches after they guided Canterbury to ITM Cup success.
On the pitch New Zealand Under-20s internationals Jordan Taufua, Dominic Bird and Codie Taylor also make the step up from Canterbury, while Maori All Blacks flanker Shane Christie joins from Tasman.
They will team up with a highly-talented squad including Dan Carter, the Whitelock brothers, Israel Dagg and Andrew Ellis.
However Richie McCaw is unavailable until July due to a six-month sabbatical and Zac Guildford is on an enforced break from the game due to yet another off-field incident. On top of that Ben Franks, Sean Maitland and Quentin MacDonald have all left for fresh challenges.