Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock says that the management of their returning All Blacks has the former Super Rugby champions firing on all cylinders at the right time of the tournament.
The Crusaders qualified for the Super Rugby Semi-finals by thrashing 2011 champions the Reds 38-9 in Christchurch.
The seven-time Super Rugby champions now progress to the Semi-finals where they will face current champions the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Many of the Crusaders players featured for the All Blacks in their three test series against Ireland last year but seemed jaded on their return.
This year the All Blacks played France in a three Test series and the Crusaders management chose to rest or name their All Blacks on the bench against the Highlanders when they returned to Super Rugby after the June break.
"This year we were expected to play well when we came back. The whole squad and management embraced that challenge and when the All Blacks came back they were on the bench or didn't play," Whitelock told Sportal at Crusaders training.
"Some guys like Luke Romano played three tests in a row and was pretty beaten up so Tom Donnelly (back-up lock) stepped in and played awesome and kept the competition going for positions."
Whitelock said that careful management of the players had meant that they didn't get played into the ground.
"We've been able to keep the bodies in shape and hopefully that's something we can keep doing - being smart rather than doing too much and being fresh when you go out there and not having heavy legs."
Earlier this month the Crusaders played their Super Rugby Semi-final opponents the Chiefs in Christchurch and won 43-15 but Whitelock says he does not believe that they would have any psychological scars from the loss.
"They'll be thinking the same. It doesn't matter what happened before or where you are on the table - you've just got to win this game," said the 58 cap Crusader.
Whitelock enjoyed a 25m break against the Reds in the qualifying final which helped to set up one of their tries but he says he is not expecting to get a similar break this weekend.
"It doesn't really happen that often, maybe once every three of four years, so I don't think it will happen this week."