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Problems mount for Crusaders ahead of tour

Last updated 05:00 26/03/2013

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The Crusaders have major hurdles to overcome on their South African tour, with captain and No 8 Kieran Read sidelined for at least a month.

Read was withdrawn from the trip after the injury he suffered late in Saturday night's 55-20 win over the Southern Kings in Christchurch was worse than first thought.

Scans revealed the All Black has suffered a partial tear of ligaments under a big toe. Read is expected to be out for a minimum of four weeks and remained in Christchurch for treatment.

Tasman and Canterbury loose forward Jordan Taufua replaced Read in the 26-strong travelling squad and Saturday night's hat-trick hero, George Whitelock, assumes the captaincy.

The Crusaders will now meet South Africa's top two teams, the Stormers and Sharks, without Read and key first-five Dan Carter, who is home awaiting the arrival of his first child. The Crusaders also play the resurgent Force in Perth on the way back to New Zealand.

Read's absence came as a major surprise, after team officials initially indicated they thought his injury was not serious.

"It is hugely disappointing that Kieran cannot join the team to South Africa," coach Todd Blackadder said.

The Crusaders have won back-to-back games in Christchurch to turn their season around after consecutive defeats away to New Zealand opposition.

The Stormers have had home victories over the Chiefs and Brumbies to ignite their season, while the Sharks top the South African conference with four wins.

Crusaders squad: Dominic Bird, Tyler Bleyendaal, Shane Christie, Wyatt Crockett, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Tom Donnelly, Andy Ellis, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks, Robbie Fruean, Ben Funnell, Zac Guildford, Willi Heinz, Nepo Laulala, Tom Marshall, Johnny McNicholl, Joe Moody, Luke Romano, Jordan Taufua, Tom Taylor, Matt Todd, Adam Whitelock, George Whitelock, Luke Whitelock, Sam Whitelock.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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