All Blacks captain Richie McCaw looks set to hold onto the Crusaders No 8 jersey after Kieran Read was ruled out of the semi-final showdown with the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
Read went down with a cracked rib at the same venue two weeks ago as the Crusaders powered to a 28-21 win against the Chiefs in their penultimate regular-season match.
McCaw, regarded as the world’s best openside flanker, has lined up at No 8 ever since, and is expected to continue in Read’s absence, with fetcher Matt Todd and George Whitelock rounding out the back row. The All Blacks No 8 is confident that he will be fit for the final, if the Crusaders get past the Chiefs.
The Crusaders have played more finals than any other Super Rugby side and have won more titles (seven) than the two next-best challengers combined (the Blues and Bulls have won three each).
However, since former Crusaders forward Todd Blackadder took over as coach in 2009, they have fallen in two semi-finals and lost out in last year’s final. Their most recent title came in 2008 under Robbie Deans.
In round robin action this season the Crusaders lost to the Chiefs, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Rebels and Bulls while the Chiefs fell to the Highlanders, Reds, Hurricanes and Crusaders.
The Chiefs have suffered successive defeats which gives the impression that they are wavering heading into the play-offs, while the Crusaders have brought out their finals-style rugby which is attritional, practical and based on a low error-rate.
The Crusaders were in menacing quarter-final form as they knocked the Bulls back on the advantage line to win 28-13 in Christchurch last week. But the Chiefs should be better - they have had extra time to repair some wobbles and to work on strategies to counter the set-piece test from the visitors. - Cape Argus