Coach Todd Blackadder’s decision to step down next year has provided added motivation for the Crusaders’ campaign, says Ryan Crotty.
The 2016 Super Rugby season will be Blackadder’s eighth and last in charge of the Crusaders.
The franchise is the competition’s most successful, but under Blackadder haven’t added to their seven championships.
Crotty said it came as a surprise when Blackadder announced last month he would be stepping down.
“It’s kind of sad – he’s been bloody successful without getting a title to his name,” he said.
“That might be a bit of motivation for a few of the guys to try to really send him out the way he deserves.”
The Crusaders will have to achieve that without two of their greats – Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.
McCaw has retired after leading the All Blacks to their second successive World Cup triumph, while Carter has headed to France after his man-of-the-match performance in the final.
“It’s hard to deny that those two guys will leave a bit of a gap,” Crotty said.
“They’re two of the best players that rugby has ever seen, but, in saying that, we have guys who can step up.
“We’ve got Matt Todd and he’s the most underrated No.7 I’ve seen and it’s a good opportunity for a young 10 to step up.”
While Todd is an obvious replacement for McCaw, there will be a less familiar face at five-eighth with Colin Slade and Tom Taylor joining Carter at French clubs.
Canterbury’s Richie Mo’unga, Fiji international Ben Volavola, and former Chief Marty McKenzie provide the playmaking options next year.
Crotty earned his 15th Test during this year’s Rugby Championship but missed the cut for the World Cup.
With Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith having joined the exodus to France, and Sonny Bill Williams concentrating on sevens, Test spots in the midfield will be up for grabs next year.
“There’s opportunity there and it’s exciting, and I’m sure every other midfielder around the country is thinking the exact same thing,” the 27-year-old Crotty said.
“It’s important I work really hard and play the best I can for the Crusaders, and opportunity comes on the back of that.”