Crusaders desperate to improve their discipline against Chiefs

The sound of Brendon Pickerill's whistle was still ringing in the ears of the Crusaders at the team's Rugby Park headquarters on Wednesday.

So it is no surprise their lack of discipline against the Hurricanes last weekend has been a focal point as they prepare to host the Chiefs in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon.

Conceding 15 penalties, most of them in the first half, didn't stop the red and blacks nabbing a 39-25 bonus point win, but it certainly kept the hosts in the contest.

Indeed, the Hurricanes were outscored five tries to one, yet the game was locked at 25-25 with a quarter of an hour to play.

Not good enough. That's been the message from the Crusaders coaching staff as they prepare to put their 34-match unbeaten run at home on the line.

'We understand there will be penalties in the game, but it's those ones where you are in full control of your own destiny that we can really eradicate,'' assistant coach Mark Jones said.

''There was a few offsides, back foot, they are penalties that we remedied in the second half because we took an extra half a metre at the back of the ruck, which is pretty simple to remedy.''

With officials instructed by NZ Rugby to crack down on breakdown infringements, among other areas, in a bid to encourage open rugby, penalty counts have been sky-high the opening two rounds of the competition.

Referees blew 58 penalties the opening weekend, followed by 49 across the two games the past weekend.

Fetchers are sometimes being awarded penalties a fraction of a second after getting their mitts on the pill, something Crusaders flanker Ethan Blackadder benefited from last weekend.

Given officials are also cracking down on tackled players making a second move before placing the ball on the turf, the onus is on the cleaners to be on the money.

Adjusting is paramount, but it's easier said than done, as Crusaders fullback Will Jordan said.

The 22-year-old, having gassed a few Hurricanes defenders before being ankle-tapped last weekend, was immediately penalised by Pickerill for making a second movement once he hit the deck, as he attempted to buy some time and deny hungry Hurricanes defenders from snaffling the ball.

In the past, his second movement would have been ignored and the Crusaders would have been allowed to launch a raid from inside the 22.

"I guess it is a bit of a habit you build up over a couple of was a funny old one the ankle tap. I thought I was running away, next thing I know I'm face down in the dirt,'' Jordan said.

Watching the Crusaders cop a heavy penalty count last weekend would not have surprised some folk.

After all, they were the fourth most penalised team (67 penalties) pre Covid-19. Only the Sharks (73), Blues (72) and Bulls (68) were pinged more.

"We want to, obviously, improve on that early penalty count and show the refereeing staff we have adapted, and we understand the points they are making. We can layer that into our performance, if we do that, we know our performance will be so much better,'' Jones said.

''To be fair, there has been good communication with the referees and NZ Rugby, ourselves and the other franchises, around the interpretations and what they're looking for.''