The Queensland Reds will be without Karmichael Hunt when they make the daunting trip across the Tasman to face the in-form Crusaders on Friday.
Three kilograms lighter after battling a fierce bout of gastro, Hunt has barely trained since returning from the team’s two-week tour of South Africa with the illness and was ruled out on Monday afternoon after going through only light exercises at Ballymore.
Hunt also strained his adductor in the win over the Cheetahs, with the Reds saying he has not been able to get enough run into his legs to be right for Friday’s match.
Queensland had the bye last week and coach Richard Graham said the Super Rugby battlers were keen to squeeze as many wins as possible out of the final block of a season which has brought nothing but misery.
The Crusaders, who were admirable in their defeat to competition leaders the Hurricanes at the weekend, will have other ideas.
Friday is retiring veteran Dan Carter’s final ever match at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium and they will not want to mark the occasion with anything but a victory.
It could actually be a triple farewell for the Crusaders with Colin Slade and Tom Taylor set for moves to English clubs next year while Richie McCaw, who is in doubt due to concussion issues, will also hang up his boots at the end of the season.
“At this stage of the year the Crusaders always come good, don’t they?” Graham said.
“They’ve rested a number of their key players at the start of the year and come back fresh.
“Anyone who saw the game the other day would understand the quality of the game was exceptionally high.
“While the Hurricanes came away with it you wouldn’t have been surprised to see the Crusaders win.
“There’s a number of players leaving the franchise at the end of the year and I’ve got no doubt having served long careers there, they’re motivated to finish the season well.”
Vice-captain Rob Simmons believes the Reds are building towards what has proved to be so elusive – a strong, consistent, polished 80-minute performance.
“There’s been a few promises and then you come to the next game and maybe we’re not so good in the same areas we were the week before,” he said.
“That’s what we’re searching for – more consistency.
“I suppose we saw glimpses in our game last week (against the Hurricanes).
“We’ve got to try and build on that, make it an 80-minute performance, move forward from the Hurricanes and try and put a better performance on the field against the Crusaders.”