Back from the bush and ready to rock tomorrow - that's the Crusaders after one of the more offbeat weeks in their history.
The players have hitchhiked, hunted, visited gyms and schools, and made surprise visits to good sorts in the Crusaders heartland, as well as preparing for their 2013 opener against the Hurricanes in Timaru tomorrow.
"It's been brilliant," said assistant coach Tabai Matson. "It's amazing when you get people outside their comfort zones."
The squad split into four groups to go to Timaru, Banks Peninsula, the West Coast, and Golden Bay on Sunday.
Typical of their activities was George Whitelock and Joel Everson turning up in the franchise's most remote corner, Ross, to cook up burgers for Sam Viney, a pillar of his local rugby club for more than 50 years.
On Tuesday came the Amazing Race - the players had to hitchhike (minus cellphones) to Hanmer via A, B, and C.
"It was pretty easy when Dan Carter stuck his thumb out in Greymouth," said Matson, whose Coast group watched the superstar and a couple of other players disappear into an SUV while they waited forlornly up the road.
After a 2013 goal-setting session in Hanmer on Wednesday morning, the squad split into six groups - led, inevitably, by the four hunting Whitelock brothers plus Luke Romano and Joe Moody - to forage in the bush (apart from one group who went to Kaikoura for crays) for 24 hours for last night's dinner.
"They've gone deep into the franchise bush - we're hoping for a real smorgasbord off the land!" said Matson as he waited for the groups to straggle back.
The coaches are confident there will still be some energy to burn tomorrow.
"We've done a lot of conditioning but there's nothing like playing," he said. "We're only three weeks away from the start of the competition, so we definitely need to get some rugby under the belt."
With several players nursing minor injuries already, two Academy players, teenager Shayne Anderson, skipper of the highly successful St Bede's team a couple of years ago, and James Schrader have been named to start on the wings.
Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Dominic Bird, Joel Everson, George Whitelock (c), Shane Christie, Jordan Taufua, Jeremy Su'a, Tyler Bleyendaal, Shayne Anderson, Robbie Fruean, Kieran Fonotia, James Schrader, Tom Marshall.
Reserves - Paea Fa'anunu, Adrian Barone, Mitch Graham, Ben Funnell, Jimmy Tupou, Matt Simons, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd, Andy Ellis, Tyrone Elkington, Kolio Hifo, Stephen Burt.