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'Does put a damper on things': Crusaders concerned with All Black duo

By Ben Smith
David Havili of the Crusaders is assisted from the field during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Crusaders and NSW Waratahs at Orangetheory Stadium, on May 27, 2023, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Crusaders comprehensive 42-18 victory over the Waratahs has come with a cost with two more All Blacks under injury clouds heading into the final round.

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All Black second five-eighth David Havili limped from the field in the second half with a leg injury, while loose forward Cullen Grace lasted only a few minutes before coming off with a knee injury.

Havili spent time on the sidelines after breaking his arm in Fiji against the Drua in the early rounds while Grace’s latest injury concern is also his second stint on the sidelines.

Ethan Blackadder is expected to come back from a calf injury however the casualty ward has put a ‘damper on things’ according to Scott Robertson.

The Crusaders were forced to call upon former Blues prop John Afoa who debuted after landing in Christchurch two days prior after returning from France.

Injuries to four props and a desire to give Tamaiti Williams a lesser load forced the Crusaders to recruit Afoa.

Robertson said he undertook a worldwide search to find an experienced prop available on short notice.

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“There’s not many experienced props,” Robertson said.

“When you look at New Zealand rugby, and you’re down to this, it’s a concern. But I don’t want to take away from a good story.”

Despite the toll the Crusaders have battled through to second place on the ladder, a remarkable feat given the stress their depth has been under this year.

With a top four place assured after taking care of the Waratahs, the Crusaders will face the Hurricanes in the final round where they want to keep up momentum.

“We’ve got to get a bit of cohesion, we’ve got to get guys game time together, we’ve had our chance to freshen the group up.

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“We’ll look at the leaderboard, but we’ll actually look what our team needs,” he said.

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