Dan Carter to miss rest of Championship
Canterbury's Tom Taylor inMARC HINTON
Dan Carter will not be back before November's tour north, but the jury's still out on whether skipper Richie McCaw could make the All Blacks' hotly anticipated Johannesburg rematch against the seething Springboks.
Coach Steve Hansen today confirmed Carter would be out for around six weeks after suffering a grade 3 AC joint (shoulder) injury during last night's gruelling, and controversial, 29-15 victory over South Africa at Eden Park.
He will be replaced by Canterbury's Tom Taylor who leapfrogs Colin Slade back into the 28-man squad to play matches against Argentina in La Plata (September 28) and South Africa in Jo'burg a week later, though Aaron Cruden is expected to be fit again to contest the starting jersey with Beauden Barrett.
Carter lasted just a quarter of an hour of an explosive encounter at Eden Park before injuring his shoulder in a hard, but legal, hit from Boks hooker Bismarck du Plessis which was wrongly deemed a yellow card offence by French referee Romain Poite.
Even Carter later, via Twitter, admitted there had been nothing dodgy about the du Plessis tackle which ultimately led to the Boks' best forward being sent off just minutes into the second half when he picked up a second yellow card offence for leading with his elbow into a Liam Messam tackle.
"There are only two games left [in the Rugby Championship], plus the [third] Bledisloe [in Dunedin], he'll probably miss those three and hopefully get on the plane to go to Paris," said a largely satisfied Hansen on Carter's prognosis today.
Despite the controversy around the sending-off of du Plessis, which ultimately robbed a stirring encounter of a fair finale, the All Blacks took control of the Rugby Championship as they secured a bonus point victory and left the previously unbeaten Boks pointless.
The New Zealanders now lead the South Africans by four points on the standings, heading into their road trip to conclude the campaign. It's more than likely the title will be decided in the competition finale at Ellis Park, which may or may not see the return of a fast-healing McCaw from his medial ligament injury.
Hansen said it would be touch and go whether the skipper makes the 28-man touring squad, with Sanzar offering no leeway to carry extra players recovering from injury.
"That's the conundrum," said Hansen. "Unfortunately we're only allowed to take 28 players, and if we took him, and he won't be available for Argentina, then we can only can select from 27.
"We'll wait and see later in the week how his [rehab] work has gone and if there's any likelihood of him being able to play against South Africa then we'll probably take him, leave Matt [Todd] here to play for Canterbury, and if Richie's doesn't make the progress we thought in Argentina then we'll fly Matt to South Africa."
That scenario would see the All Blacks take just one specialist openside in against the Pumas - youngster Sam Cane - but that appears to be a risk Hansen is prepared to take if McCaw is a chance to play against the Boks.
Fullback Israel Dagg is not expected to be affected by the thigh haematoma he suffered last night, while the rest of the squad will be fit. None of the touring 28 will be released for ITM Cup action next weekend.
Hansen today said he'd been rapt with the way his men stood up to a rousing Boks challenge to preserve their 32-test unbeaten record at Eden Park and to tuck away their seventh straight victory for 2013. They also ended a nine-game winning streak from the South Africans.
"I'm very proud of what we achieved. It was a massive test match -- it was built up to be one and came out to be one. It was a really physical encounter, and we stood up to that, scored four tries in various manners, got a bonus point out of it and stopped them getting one. That's going to be vitally important for the outcome of the championship."
And Hansen came to the defence of referee Romain Poite who has been criticised by some for dishing out a total of four yellow cards, including the double for du Plessis which effectively ended the Boks hopes just minutes into the second half.
The South Africans refused to comment of Poite's decisions after the game, but were bitterly disappointed that his two cards on du Plessis effectively robbed them of a chance to sustain their challenge against the New Zealanders.
"I think he made one [mistake] on Bismarck's [first] yellow card, no doubt about that, and he'll know that himself," said Hansen. "You could sit here and talk about entry points to the breakdown, and tacklers not letting the ball go, but I could do that every Sunday.
"It's just a difficult game to referee. Under difficult circumstances I thought he was good. It shouldn't be a game remembered for the referee, it should be remembered for the things the athletes did out there."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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