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Crusaders come clean over damage to Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy after initially denying it

The Crusaders have come clean over damage to the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy, following celebrations from their title-clinching win over the Highlanders.

1 NEWS has obtained photos of Tu-Kotahi Aotearoa, missing the Pounamu and with chips and dents in its base.

A source close to the team says the photos were taken 24 hours after the victory.

They claim a message was then sent out to everyone in the franchise to search for the Pounamu, which has since been found.

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Tū Kōtahi Aotearoa, which translates to Stand As One New Zealand, will be awarded to this year's winner. Source: Supplied

The Crusaders initially denied any wrongdoing to 1 NEWS, but chief executive Colin Mansbridge now says it was accidentally dropped, incurring some minor damage.

Mansbridge says they've notified New Zealand Rugby and sought cultural advice and repairs will be made as soon as possible.