Former All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg is set to make his return to Super Rugby, nearly eight months after dislocating his shoulder.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder says the 49-Test veteran is fit for selection for Friday’s match against the Jaguares in Christchurch.
Dagg, 27, underwent shoulder surgery last September, and has only just worked his way back to full fitness.
He played half an hour of club rugby last weekend before travelling to Perth as injury cover for the Crusaders in their 20-19 win over Western Force.
Blackadder says Dagg is over his disappointment from missing out on last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“He’s come back right from the start of the year a different man,” he said.
“I think he’s had some good meetings with the All Blacks coaches, his body’s right and he’s a real energiser behind the scenes.
“He’s highly experienced. This week it’ll be just (getting) him to contain his enthusiasm initially.
“It’s good to have him back in the mix, we badly need him.”
Blackadder is nonetheless happy with how the Crusaders are tracking, with five wins from six starts, and is looking forward to the team being further boosted as other players return from injury.
Marty McKenzie and Robbie Fruean aren’t too far away from full duties, although Jack Goodhue’s tight hamstring is expected to keep him sidelined for another couple of weeks.
Blackadder is also pleased with the defensive improvements shown by the Crusaders this season.
“We’re not a complete team by a mile, but overall our defence has lifted and there’s a lot more on attack,” he said.
“The team’s in really good heart – we’re fit, strong and healthy. We’ve got guys coming back, we’re not tired, we’re not burnt out.
“We’ve got a team here that’s ready to explode.”