Wellington - After a rocky start to the Super Rugby season, the stars are aligning for Todd Blackadder's Canterbury Crusaders with flanker Richie McCaw set to return from a long injury layoff and help drive the side toward the playoffs.
The All Blacks skipper has been sidelined with a broken thumb for the past two months but may ease back into the action off the bench against the high-flying ACT Brumbies in Christchurch on Saturday.
“If he does get through training, potentially it will be an impact role off the bench,” Crusaders forwards coach Dave Hewett told local media.
“Given the conditions and how the other loose forwards pull up over the week could determine whether he starts or comes off the bench.”
While McCaw's return is a bonus for the clash against the highly disciplined Australian conference leaders, the way the Crusaders have rallied without their talisman has been more encouraging.
Matt Todd has performed well at openside flanker in McCaw's absence and after galvanising their season with two emphatic wins in South Africa the Crusaders continued their renaissance by upsetting the champion Waikato Chiefs in their own backyard.
Eighth in the table on 22 points and coming off a bye, a win over the Brumbies could see the Crusaders break into the top six for the first time this season.
The match promises to be an intriguing battle between two sides who have employed a territorial game and tactical line-outs to good effect.
All Blacks lock Luke Romano is also set to return from injury to bolster the Crusaders' set-piece, while captain Kieran Read is also likely to start despite suffering a head-knock against the Chiefs. – Reuters