Monday, 9 March 2009
Crusaders captain Richie McCaw strained the medial ligament in his right knee in his team’s 6-0 defeat by the Highlanders in Carisbrook on Saturday.
Coach Todd Blackadder hopes to have the openside flanker back in the squad for the three-game trip to South Africa which begins with a match against the Sharks in Durban on April 18 and includes games against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on April 25 and the Lions in Johannesburg on May 1 (all times South African).
McCaw is likely to miss the matches against the Force (on Saturday), Waratahs (March 21), Stormers (March 28) and Bulls (April 3). The following week is a bye for the Crusaders.
Blackadder said: “It’s never a good time to lose one of the best players in world rugby but it’s a good opportunity for George Whitelock to step up. He played very well against the Brumbies when Richie was ruled out earlier in the season and I’m sure he’ll do very well in our next game against the Force at AMI Stadium on Saturday.”
Also missing for the foreseeable future will be wing Jared Payne, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Highlanders, and centre Casey Laulala who injured his shoulder against the Hurricanes.
Blackadder is hopeful of having experienced fullback Leon MacDonald, who injured his shoulder in the Crusaders round-one victory over the Chiefs, back in time to play the Force. More will be known about MacDonald’s availability later in the week.
Wing Kade Poki has an ankle injury and is unlikely to play on Saturday. Another wing, Sean Maitland, is recovering from a hamstring strain and won’t be fit in time.
Meanwhile, hooker Corey Flynn is looking forward to returning to rugby in about six months. Flynn re-broke his left arm in the round two defeat by the Brumbies in Canberra but the experienced player is still working closely with the forwards in the squad and he could be back playing for Canterbury in the Air New Zealand Cup.
Blackadder said the mood in the squad is still very good despite the three consecutive losses and the players were excited about expressing themselves on the field against the Force.
“The attitude among the players in the match against the Highlanders was brilliant,” he said. “We can’t fault their commitment or determination. It’s always disappointing to lose but we’ll hang in there. We’re very close to getting it right.”