A stuttering Crusaders side desperate for a win could be forced to line up against the Lions in Johannesburg without captain Kieran Read on Saturday as the inspirational number eight battles to recover from concussion.
The IRB's player of the year had a disappointing centenary match against the Hurricanes in Christchurch last week, suffering an ankle injury and a head knock to come off before halftime and then watch the seven-times Super Rugby champions go down 29-26 in a cliffhanger.
Crusaders assistant coach Aaron Mauger said the All Blacks enforcer was still showing “minor symptoms” of concussion which could take him out of the equation.
“There is no need to risk a guy,” he told local reporters on Thursday. “His personal health is more important than anything we are trying to achieve for the team.”
Read's absence would further deplete the Crusaders of leadership, having already lost All Blacks captain Richie McCaw to a broken thumb and world class flyhalf Daniel Carter to a six-month sabbatical.
Vice captain and centre Ryan Crotty would be expected to lead the side in the absence of 28-year-old Read, with either Jordan Taufua or Luke Whitelock to start at number eight.
The Crusaders are looking to post just their third win of the season against a Lions team (4-2) who have impressed since returning to the competition this year in place of the relegated Southern Kings.
While the Crusaders are second-bottom of the 15-team competition for points scored, it was their usually water-tight defence that disappointed last week, and allowed Hurricanes winger Alapati Leiua to shrug off no fewer than five tacklers in a thrilling dash down the right wing to score the winning try.
“The defensive effort let us down in the end - a couple of one-on-ones which pretty much decided the game,” Mauger said.
“So that part was a little bit concerning.” – Reuters