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Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock played through broken thumb in Super Rugby Pacific final

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has revealed that inspirational lock Sam Whitelock played through his injury in the Super Rugby Pacific final as the side landed at home for celebrations in Christchurch.

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Whitelock was an integral part of the Crusaders pressure over the Blues at line out and ruck time, winning a game-high four turnovers throughout the match in what was an influential performance. Two of his turnovers came at line out time whilst he foiled the Blues’ ruck twice for two breakdown turnovers.

The All Black lock missed the semi-final against the Chiefs due to the injury but returned to the line-up to face the Blues in the last game of the season despite his thumb still being broken.

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“He’s got an incredible capacity to play through pain…to play with a broken thumb,” Robertson told media at Christchurch airport.

“Last week he definitely wasn’t right because he never says he’s not right and he sort of hesitated.

“This week he was so on. He was a commander-general. He worked so well with Scooter (Scott Barrett). The performance was a throwback to his best.”

Playing through the pain proved to be a masterstroke for the Crusaders and Whitelock, who captured their sixth title in six years by defeating the fancied home side 21-7 after building a solid 16-0 lead.

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However, while the Crusaders celebrate the All Blacks will be assessing their options as Whitelock now faces doubt over his availability for the upcoming three-match test series against Ireland with the status of his thumb unclear after the final.

The All Blacks confirmed this week that Chiefs young lock Josh Lord has been ruled out for the rest of 2022 with a ruptured ACL, creating a headache in the second row for selectors.

With Lord’s injury, there were just four locks remaining in the squad with Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i and Scott Barrett. Should Whitelock be ruled out of the first test in Auckland, the All Blacks would have to call up another second rower.

Returning Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu would make a suitable replacement but is currently ineligible following his stint in Japan.

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