Crusaders head coach Rob Penney is looking for consistency to turn around his side’s disappointing start to the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season.

Penney said errors and turnovers were damaging the team’s ability to hit opponents as they conceded 17 turnovers in the 37-24 loss to the Waratahs during the Super Round.

The Crusaders missed 31 tackles against the Chiefs and a further 21 against the Waratahs.

“I think we had 36 opportunities with the ball and 18 of them turned into errors and turnovers…we’re better than that,” Penney said.

If the Crusaders were to lose against the Fijian Drua on Saturday, it would be their worst start to a Super Rugby season since 1996 which is the only time the Crusaders have lost their opening three matches.

“It’s never easy in an organisation that prides itself on being able to get across the line when challenging times occur.

“I’m not questioning the players’ resolve, it’s been a long time since the Crusaders have been in this sort of place.

Both the Crusaders and the Drua are yet to taste victory this season and won’t want to be left lagging behind the early-season pace-setters.

The Drua managed to secure a 25-24 win against the Crusaders in Lautoka last season, so don’t count out the Fijian side on worsening the Crusaders’ start to the season.

The Crusaders have bolstered their ranks with the signing of former Welsh international Johnny McNicholl who Penney said will provide good depth and injury cover.

Crusaders are missing Will Jordan and Leigh Halfpenny to long-term injuries so McNicholl adds experience to a backline that is still trying to find its feet in Super Rugby.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders have named three debutants on their bench as they look to get their season back on track against the Fijian Drua at Churchill Park in Lautoka.

Flanker Tahlor Cahill, outside back Jone Rova and first five-eighth Riley Hohepa have all been named on the bench to debut in Fiji.

After starting 0-2 the Crusaders face the daunting task of toppling the Drua at home where they have proven to be a formidable opponent for New Zealand sides.

The Crusaders have kept their forward pack in tact from the 37-24 defeat to the Waratahs as openside Tom Christie prepares for his 50th game for the club.

George Bower, George Bell and Fletcher Newell pack down in the front row while Ioane Moananu, Kershawl Sykes-Martin, and Seb Calder deputise on the bench.

Quinten Strange and Scott Barrett start in the second row with impressive lock Jamie Hannah the bench cover. Dom Gardiner, Christie and Cullen Grace form the back row with debutant Tahlor Cahill named in the No 20 jersey.

There are two changes to the backline with veteran Willi Heinz getting the start at halfback over Noah Hotham, who drops out of the game day squad. Mitchell Drummond has been named on the bench.

Heinz will partner Taha Kemara in the halves who will start at first five-eighth for the second straight week.

David Havili and Levi Aumua form the midfield once again while Manasa Mataele has been named on the left wing with Macca Springer dropping out of the squad. Sevu Reece has been named on the right with Chay Fihaki at No 15.

Crusaders team to play Fijian Drua:

1. George Bower
2. George Bell
3. Fletcher Newell
4. Scott Barrett
5. Quinten Strange
6. Dom Gardiner
7. Tom Christie
8. Cullen Grace
9. Willi Heinz
10. Taha Kemara
11. Manasa Mataele
12. David Havili
13. Levi Aumua
14. Sevu Reece
15. Chay Fihaki


16. Ioane Moananu
17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin
18. Seb Calder
19. Jamie Hannah
20. Tahlor Cahill*
21. Mitchell Drummond
22. Jone Rova*
23. Riley Hohepa*