Kieran Read ruled out again; this time it's flu
The Crusaders insist Kieran Read is symptom-free from his concussion issue despite the fact he will not be available for Saturday's Super Rugby derby against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Read is suffering from a nasty flu and a sinus infection and has been unwell since the weekend. His illness has kept him out of full-contact training this week which he needed to take part in if he is to pass his final concussion clearance tests.
It is expected Read will take part in full-contact training today, but that is too late to be cleared for Saturday's crucial Super match.
The 61-test All Black has not played since Mike Fitzgerald dazed him with a high tackle during the Crusaders' 18-17 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton on April 19.
The incident and ongoing delays to Read's return sparked concerns the injury could place him in jeopardy for next month's three-test series against England.
However, the Crusaders expect Read back for their next home match, against the seventh-placed Force, next Friday at AMI Stadium.
Meanwhile, Sharks loose forward Jean Deysel has been suspended for three weeks following his stomp on Crusader Jordan Taufua's head.
Deysel was red-carded by referee Rohan Hoffmann in the 16th minute of the Sharks' 30-25 win over the Crusaders last Saturday.
Deysel pleaded guilty to the mid-level offence which carried a five-week suspension under Sanzar rules.
The period of suspension was reduced to three weeks as a result of "compelling mitigating factors," a Sanzar statement said.
"The player apologised to his opponent after the match [and the player] accepted the apology. Deysel is a senior player with an exceptionally good record over a long career who acts as a leader and performs a mentoring role in the team. He pleaded guilty and showed genuine remorse for his actions."
Deysel will miss two Super Rugby matches and a club game and is banned from rugby up to and including June 7.
Taufua this week said he harboured no ill-feeling toward Deysel.
"He came up to me and apologised to me at the end and I just told him 'no hard feelings mate, it's a contact sport'," Taufua said.
"I think it was just a heat of the moment thing, you know? I think he was trying to get back on his D-line and just reacted. I'm not angry at him or anything. I have got no grudge."
A Crusaders spokesperson said the franchise accepted the length of the ban and had put the incident behind them, preferring to focus on the remainder of their campaign.
However, Blues coach John Kirwan believed the punishment was "on the light side".
"I thought he'd get longer than that," said Kirwan, whose Blues face the Sharks in Auckland tomorrow night.
"You've got to have consistency. If they believe he didn't mean to do it and he's genuine then you've got to take that at face value."
Should the Crusaders beat the Highlanders in Dunedin this weekend, they would go to the top of the New Zealand conference, though the Chiefs play the Hurricanes straight after them and could pinch the position back with a win.
The Crusaders team for Saturday's match is expected to be named today.