Multiple Super Rugby title-winning coach and former Wallabies mentor Robbie Deans has given his stamp of approval to the 2014 Crusaders ahead of Saturday's final against the NSW Waratahs.
Deans coached the Crusaders to five titles in nine years, including their last with victory over the Waratahs in the 2008 final in Christchurch immediately before linking with the Wallabies.
He was also manager of the first two of the Crusaders' competition-record seven title-winning sides.
Current Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, who played in three of the champion sides under Deans, has had a number of near misses since taking over in 2009.
They have reached the finals in each of the past six seasons, losing to Queensland in the 2011 decider and falling at the semi-final stage on four other occasions.
Earlier this year, Deans signed to coach Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights.
"We caught up in Christchurch a couple of weeks ago and he liked the way that the Crusaders were playing their footy," Blackadder said.
"He thought he could see the belief within the players, so it was reassuring to hear that. It was nice."
The Crusaders have won 10 of their past 12 games after starting the season with successive losses.
"I've felt all the way through this competition we've just been growing and getting better," Blackadder said.
He believes the current side has all the qualities of a champion Crusaders outfit.
"They've shown all the fighting characteristics. We've been through a lot as a team this year," Blackadder said.
"We haven't had a dream run at all, I don't think.
"We've had to work hard for everything that we've got and we've been written off.
"But the guys have have stuck to it, they've worked hard for each other.
"There's a lot of self-belief and we've got a lot of experience and hunger.
"If I look at all the characteristics that you want in a really good Crusaders team, I see it in this team. I definitely do.
"There is a lot of want and desire there."
Asked to nominate the Waratahs' greatest qualities, Blackadder said: "They've obviously got immense belief. I think their attack is second to none."
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