It definitely hurts
The Crusaders sent out an emphatic statement of intent with a bonus-point 34-8 victory over the Highlanders in their final Super Rugby league match on Saturday.
Flank Matt Todd scored two tries and Dan Carter kicked 12 points as the Crusaders won the New Zealand conference.
Carter, playing out of position at inside centre, landed four penalties and a conversion as the Crusaders posted their 11th win of the season to establish themselves as the best team in a strong New Zealand pool.
After beating the Blues two weeks ago, Crusaders captain Ryan Crotty said they were building nicely for the play-offs.
"We've had a couple of good wins - over the Blues and the Highlanders - and it gives us momentum going into the play-offs.
"It's been a good couple of weeks.
"We talked about being able to take momentum into the play-offs," Crotty added.
"We had a stuff-up against the Hurricanes a couple of weeks ago, but we've had a couple of good wins over the Blues and the Highlanders, which gives us that momentum going into the knock-out stages.
"The boys have had that edge in training. We've talked a lot about preparing generally and the guys feel pretty excited about what they can achieve."
The Highlanders, meanwhile, will have a tougher job re-establishing their momentum after back-to-back losses to the New South Wales Waratahs and Crusaders.
"It definitely hurts, but we've got a chance," Highlanders captain Nasi Manu said.
"We're in the play-offs and we've got to be better next week," he added.