Head knock puts Read in doubt to face Lions
Kieran Read may be scratched from Sunday morning's (NZ time) Super Rugby match against the Lions in Johannesburg because of concussion.
A head knock forced the Crusaders captain and No 8 Read from the field during last weekend's loss to the Hurricanes in Christchurch and this morning assistant coach Aaron Mauger confirmed the IRB player of the year was no certainty to start against the Lions.
"He's still showing some minor symptoms so that may affect his ability to take the field this weekend," Mauger said.
Despite Read's pedigree and the need for the Crusaders to win this match at Ellis Park - they have only won two of their five matches this season - Mauger said there was no chance of Read being told to play if not fully fit.
"There is no need to risk a guy," he said.
"His personal health is more important than anything we are trying to achieve for the team. Health definitely comes first and we are lucky we have a good doctor [Deb Robinson] and she has dealt with these things many times before." Read was tested by Robinson before the team flew from Christchurch last Saturday morning. The ankle injury he suffered against the Hurricanes was not serious.
If Read isn't named to play the Lions the captaincy is expected to shift to vice-captain and centre Ryan Crotty, and the Crusaders will be hoping he is fully fit to face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein a week later.
Losing Read would be a major blow to a side that is operating well below their best.
The Crusaders are already without All Blacks captain and flanker Richie McCaw (broken thumb) and first five-eighth Dan Carter won't return from his sabbatical until early July.
Head coach Todd Blackadder can start either Jordan Taufua or Luke Whitelock at No 8.
Since arriving in South Africa the Crusaders have analysed the defensive lapses that proved so costly against the Hurricanes.
Julian Savea and Alapati Leiua were both able to beat their opposite wings Nafi Tuitavake and Johnny McNicholl to score tries and Leiua's effort in the final minutes, when McNicholl rushed in instead of holding back, won the match for the Hurricanes.
"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.
"It was a system thing, really, and a couple of poor reads on either side. They have both come in when there is no need to and let their man get on the outside of him."
Mauger said Tabai Matson, whose major focus was to coach the defence, had been working with the players to ensure the errors were not repeated.
It appears unlikely the Crusaders, who are expected to name the team later today, will make major selection changes.
Dominic Bird will have to start at lock because Luke Romano hasn't toured due to injury and Read, if ruled out, will also have to be replaced.
"It will be reasonably settled," Mauger confirmed.
"Continuity is really important. We did a lot of good things last week, although we still made 21 errors which is probably twice the amount you want to be making in this game.
"But we did a lot of good things, we got our attack going, we managed to get a bit of quicker ball."
The Crusaders, wary of the accurate kicking of Lions first five-eighth Marnitz Boshoff, know they cannot afford to give away kickable penalties and this is likely to result in them curbing their counter-attacking instincts.