Crusaders to soldier on without Whitelock
Wellington - The front-running Crusaders have decided
against appealing captain Sam Whitelock's Super Rugby suspension and will take
on the Bulls on Saturday without two senior All Blacks.
In addition to losing Whitelock, who copped a two-week ban
for striking an opponent during last week's 48-21 win over the Cheetahs, the Crusaders will also be without All Blacks' captain Kieran Read,
who broke a thumb in the same match.
The loss of the veteran internationals for round 11 will
impact on the Crusaders' pack against the renowned power of the Bulls'
With the Crusaders the only unbeaten side in the competition
after 10 rounds, coach Scott Robertson said after Whitelock's suspension that
they were considering an appeal.
However, a team spokesperson confirmed on Thursday they had
decided to accept the judiciary's ruling and Matt Todd would take over the
The Bulls have not enjoyed the best of seasons, with only
three wins so far, but two of them have been in their last two games.
They also have home ground advantage, having beaten the
Crusaders for the last five times they met in Pretoria dating back to 2008, and
coach Nollis Marais said the team was entering this contest with a lot of
"The last two wins confirmed that we can indeed compete
against anyone," Marais said.
"We have a massive hurdle to overcome on Saturday
though, as the Crusaders have been setting a number of benchmarks to other
teams this year.
"They remain a classy side and despite not having Sam
Whitelock and Kieran Read available for this match, remains one of the top
teams in the competition."
Poised to hit the top spot should the Crusaders fall are the
Golden Lions, the Africa 2 conference leaders, who are in Melbourne to play the
Read's broken thumb, which puts him in a race against time
to be fit again for the June Test series against the British and Irish Lions
tour, added to the All Blacks' injury woes.
The injury concerns had worsened this week with news that
Dane Coles, initially sidelined with a knee injury, now had concussion.
For weeks, the defending champions Hurricanes
have explained the absence of their hooker and captain as down to a struggle to
overcome a calf problem.
"Subsequent to his knee injury, he not only developed a
calf strain but also some headaches," coach Chris Boyd said when Coles'
name was missing from the team-sheet for Friday's clash with the Stormers.
"He is now under a return-to-play protocol for
The Stormers still lead the Africa 1 conference despite
losing their past three games and coach Robbie Fleck has said it was time to
arrest the slide.
"We have had to learn some hard lessons on this tour
which will be good for us going forward," he said.
"We face the defending champions and the players are
determined to make an impression."
While the Brumbies have a bye, the Waratahs have a chance to
move to the top of the Australian conference.
But to do that they will have to be the first Australian
side to beat a New Zealand team this year, and with a bonus point, when they
host the Blues.