Coach Todd Blackadder says Ryan Crotty will be a loss but he’s confident the Crusaders will cope with the midfielder’s absence when they face top Australian side the Brumbies.
Crotty, who racked up his 100th Super Rugby appearance against the Jaguares last weekend, will sit out the match in Canberra on Sunday because of a hamstring complaint.
Blackadder says the 15-cap All Black, who made a delayed start to the season with a thumb problem, tweaked the hamstring earlier in the week and failed a fitness test on Friday.
“He’s been fantastic for us and he’s brought some straight-line running and some physicalness to the midfield,” he said.
“While he’s a bit of a loss, it’s also an opportunity to get on with things without him. We didn’t have him at the start of the year and we coped. This is just another good test for the boys.”
Crotty’s replacement at inside centre will be David Havili.
There is one other change to the run-on side, with Jone Macilai coming in on the right wing for Johnny McNicholl, who is out with a toe injury.
All Black lock Sam Whitelock returns after a week off but Blackadder will use him off the bench, preferring not to break up the starting combination of Luke Romano and Scott Barrett.
“If it was a short turnaround it might have been different,” he said.
“But we just want to keep that combination going for another week with Luke and Scotty, who had a great game last week.”
The Crusaders are on a six-match winning streak that has taken them to second behind overall competition leaders the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference.
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Jone Macilai, Kieron Fonotia, David Havili, Nemani Nadolo, Richie Mo’unga, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ged Robinson, Wyatt Crockett, Mike Alaalatoa, Sam Whitelock, Tim Boys, Mitchell Drummond, Sean Wainui, Marty McKenzie.