Crusaders utility back Scott Hamilton is doubtful with a shin injury but Robbie Deans is banking on the return of several All Black stars for the match against the Bulls on Friday.
Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Leon MacDonald are expected to be back to lift the Crusaders out of their slump when they tackle the Bulls, xtramsn.co.nz reported.
It’s a daunting task and it will also be a definitive match to the Crusaders’ play-off hopes after they were tipped over 28-17 by the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend.
Coming on top of a draw to wooden-spooners the Western Force the week before, the Crusaders have given up the No 1 position on the points table and possible home advantage through the play-offs to the Waratahs.
They desperately need to bounce back against the Bulls who have a sniff of the semifinals and were in snorting form in dispatching the Sharks in a nine-try thriller.
There wasn’t much thrilling over in the Crusaders camp a couple of hours later as they contemplated the consequences of their first loss of the season.
The result was bad and it was complicated by the injury to Hamilton. He was playing at fullback as MacDonald was rested but only got through to halftime before being forced off after taking a knock to a shin.
Crusaders doctor Deb Robinson said Hamilton was unlikely to take part in training in the early part of this week’s buildup to the Bulls match. She said he would be assessed before the team was named on Wednesday.
With MacDonald sure to return to the starting order for Pretoria this weekend, the Crusaders would dearly love to have Hamilton available for the left wing where he has been so effective this year.
The plan to rest Carter and MacDonald didn’t go as well as Deans had hoped. He would have liked to have both sitting on the bench much longer but circumstances never allowed that.
MacDonald was forced on to cover the injury of Hamilton and Carter was introduced after the break to try to ignite the Crusaders over the second half.
That never happened and they were flattered by the scoreline with Rico Gear’s last gasp try meaning little in terms of the match where they failed to get even a bonus point.