Yahoo!Xtra Sport / Neil Reid - March 24, 2009
Richie McCaw's return to the playing arena could still be up to four weeks away.
Reports on Monday suggested the All Black captain could be in line to make a premature return from the knee injury which has sidelined him since the Crusaders' round four loss to the Highlanders.
But it seems unlikely he will be rushed back into action in the Rebel Sport Super 14 before the Crusaders head to South Africa for their three-match tour, beginning on April 18 (New Zealand time).
McCaw suffered strained knee ligaments in the Crusaders 6-0 loss to the Highlanders on March 7.
He joined a concerning Crusaders' injury ward, which includes the Super 14 season-ending broken arm suffered by All Black hooker Corey Flynn.
The Crusaders' loose forward stocks are under further pressure ahead of Saturday night's clash against the Stormers in Christchurch.
Both stand-in captain Kieran Read and McCaw's replacement George Whitelock were forced from Sydney's ANZ Stadium during last weekend's 17-13 win over the Waratahs.
Read has a hip injury, while Whitelock has damaged a thigh.
Fullback Leon MacDonald also left the field with a rib injury.
All three will be monitored ahead of the match against the Stormers, with Whitelock understood to be in the biggest doubt to be fit.
However, there could be some better news on the injury front, with both centre Casey Laulala and wing Kade Poki set to be back in selection contention.
Meanwhile, Read has heralded the effort shown by his side in their gutsy win over the Waratahs.
It was the Todd Blackadder-coached side's first win since the opening weekend of the Super 14.
"That was unbelievable, a great effort from us," he said.
"We needed an 80-minute performance and the boys stuck at it right to the end.
"We thought we had it over them if we played with a bit of width and our back-line is working really well."