We are now in a death struggle
The seven-time champion Crusaders are being driven by the 'fear of failure' as the Super Rugby play-offs draw ever closer.
They are in danger of missing the play-offs for the first time since 2001 - having won the title four times, finished runners up twice and were losing semifinalists on another four occasions in the past decade.
Despite their impressive track record and sitting in fifth place on the global standings, defeat against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday could deal their play-off hopes a critical blow.
Although they face the Western Force in the final week of league fixtures, they may well find that teams like the Reds, Hurricanes and Sharks will have an edge on them in the final dash to the line.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder admitted that back-to-back victories in the final fortnight is non negotiable.
"We are now in a death struggle to make the play-offs," Blackadder told the New Zealand media.
"We have a lot to do to make the top six. We just have to absolutely focus on our tasks this week and on getting a result on Friday."
Blackadder added that the return of All Blacks Israel Dagg, Dan Carter and Kieran Read from injury has helped to fuel the desire within the squad to give everything for the cause.
"The guys are pretty fired up," he said on Wednesday.
"They were really disappointed with last weekend," he said of a loss to the Hurricanes that had him firing potshots at controversial Kiwi referee Bryce Lawrence.
Blackadder wasn't happy with what he saw in the loss to the Hurricanes - two tries leaving the usually affable Crusaders coach fuming.
"The first try with the obstruction, to me that was not a try," he said.
"Even the second one, they had a guy in our defensive line with obstruction even though we weren't on song and put our hands up and take responsibility for what wasn't a very accurate performance. There are two tries that I don't think should have been allowed. Those things, they hurt you and they kill you."
Blackadder said the players' motivation meant the coaching staff hadn't had to do much this week apart from select the side and be clear about the game plan.
The naming of the team was delayed until after the final training in Christchurch to ensure Dagg, Carter and Read emerged unscathed.
Their inclusion means the seven-time champions will have 12 All Blacks in their starting line-up, including an entire pack with Test experience.
"We're pleased we've got a good line-up for a big game," Blackadder said.
"We're playing the best team in the competition and they deserve the right to say they're No.1."
Sources: Fairfax NZ News, 3 News & NZ Newswire