After that team abandoned their next game, they embarked on a remarkable campaign in which they played every game outside Christchurch before losing the final to the Queensland Reds.
“A few of us older boys have been putting some thoughts and feelings across to try and help everyone out,” said veteran All Blacks lock Whitelock, who was in the 2011 team.
“It’s been a great week to really get the boys tight and to make sure they’re in a good space to go out and perform this weekend.”
It will be Whitelock’s first appearance of the year for the unbeaten competition leaders after an extended off-season break.
He was thankful to have captaincy duties to perform this week, taking his mind off last week’s horror.
“Once I’ve talked about it, I can look at the rugby stuff but everyone’s got different emotions,” he said.
“It’s about making sure you’re aware of that and if you recognise someone’s probably feeling a bit down, get alongside them, help them out.”
Coach Scott Robertson has named a team close to full strength for the Sydney Cricket Ground clash, although five-eighth Richie Mo’unga and in-form lock Scott Barrett are rested after starting the first four games.
Crusaders: David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Brett Cameron, Bryn Hall, Whetu Douglas, Madd Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (capt), Quinten Strange, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Res: Andrew Makalio, Harry Allan, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Tom Sanders, Ereatara Enari, Mitchell Hunt, Will Jordan.