Injuries hit Crusaders as Lions showdown looms
Christchurch - The Crusaders will be without bruising flank Jordan Taufua for next weekend's Super Rugby final against the Lions after he suffered a broken arm against the Hurricanes.
Coach Scott Robertson also faced a question mark over backline leader Ryan Crotty and was grappling with a dwindling stock of hookers as he began on Sunday to prepare for the showdown in Christchurch.
Injuries aside, Robertson viewed Saturday's semi-final victory over the Hurricanes as a sign his defending champions were tracking well to claim a ninth title, with discipline, defence and the skills of flyhalf Richie Mo'unga working as planned.
"We wanted to be really clean and I think we gave four penalties away for the whole game and that's way below average," he said.
"We defended amazingly and its given us a chance of one more week, and Richie's controlling everything. He's got time, he's brave and made some big tackles."
After the Crusaders cruised to a 30-12 semi-final victory, Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd pointed to the strength of their powerful forward pack.
"They just keep putting that pressure on the supply of ball and we had trouble at times at the scrum, we had trouble at times at the lineout, we had trouble at times in the breakdown," he said.
"We couldn't get any go forward to get ourselves rolling."
Even with the loss of Taufua, Robertson has Wallaby international Pete Samu to call on for the starting pack to join seven All Blacks.
Taufua is an All Black in name only. After being selected to play France in the June Tests, he was sidelined by a calf injury in training.
Crotty left the field after a blow to the head and will be monitored in the coming days, while replacement hooker Seb Siataga suffered a broken arm to become the third Crusaders rake to be sidelined by injury this year.
Apart from the venue, next Saturday's final will be a repeat of last year's showdown when the Crusaders beat the Lions 25-17 in Johannesburg to claim their eighth Super crown.
The South Africans, who downed the Waratahs 44-26 in their semi-final, go into their third consecutive final without having won the southern hemisphere championship.
Their forwards looked impressive against the Australians with two tries to hooker Malcolm Marx from driving mauls, and when they played wide, wing Aphiwe Dyantyi produced a long-range touchdown.
"Their strengths are the reason they have got to the final," Robertson noted.
"Their ability to maul, and they have got incredible guys who can turn a ball over in Kwagga (Smith) and Malcolm Marx. They are just an abrasive, big pack.
"They have been hurt a couple of times in finals," Robertson added.
"We know what happened last year with the red card, the controversy and we held on in the end there."
In last year's final, the Crusaders led 25-3 at half-time only for the Lions to come back with 14 unanswered points in the second half despite being a man down, with Smith red carded just before the break.