Christchurch - The Crusaders
started their long trek to South Africa in search of their eighth Super Rugby
title with Kieran Read and Owen Franks on the plane despite limping off in the semi-final victory over the Chiefs.
All Blacks captain Read hurt his knee and limped off in the final few minutes of the 27-13 victory at Rugby League Park, while Franks was replaced at halftime after a long-standing Achilles injury flared up.
The Crusaders were required to wait until after the semi-final between the Lions and Hurricanes before they knew where they would be playing the final and headed to the airport soon after the South Africans won the game 44-29.
Both were on the plane heading towards South Africa, the Crusaders told local media on Sunday.
Their inclusion was good news for the seven-time champions who demonstrated again on Saturday their ability to win games most other teams would probably lose.
Several of their 14 regular season wins were come-from-behind victories and on Saturday they had virtually no ball but still managed to score four tries.
It came on the back of a tremendous forward effort in atrocious conditions in the quarter-final against the Highlanders and centre Ryan Crotty felt it would put them in good stead for the highveldt at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
"The boys are pretty proud, it was a massive effort," Crotty told reporters. "We have played two of the best teams in the comp in the last two weeks and they have not been easy games by any stretch of the imagination.
"Both times were pretty solid defensively, it kind of came down to moments and opportunities that we managed to take."
The Crusaders will need to take all the opportunities they get at Ellis Park, after the Lions over-ran the Hurricanes from 22-3 down.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd was happy to share some insights with his fellow New Zealanders.
"(The Lions) opened up pretty easily in the first 20 minutes; we created five or six clear, and fairly simplistic, opportunities and I think the Crusaders can do that as well," Boyd told local media.
"That was a physical battle, that Chiefs-Crusaders one, and the Crusaders had to get through a lot of work defensively and I'd say that they'd be out on their feet a little bit.
"It's not a bridge too far for them but it's going to be a big challenge and probably the number of forwards in their forward pack is potentially going to stand them in reasonable stead."