The Crusaders have lost another key player ahead of Friday night’s highly anticipated match against the Hurricanes in Christchurch.
Loose forward Jordan Taufua has been scratched with a calf injury, which he picked up while training with the All Blacks in Auckland at the start of the week.
It’s bound to irk Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who also lost loosehead prop Tim Perry to a hamstring injury, also picked up at the All Blacks camp.
Taufua’s unavailability means Pete Samu will start at No 8, while rookie Ethan Blackadder comes on to the bench.
“His calf tightened up at the All Blacks camp, so it’s a shame for him because he was pretty pumped to play,” Robertson told Team Talk on Thursday night.
Taufua’s preferred position is on the blindside flank, but he’s done a fine job filling in for injured All Blacks captain Kieran Read at the back of the scrum this season.
Named in the All Blacks for the first time on Sunday morning, Taufua joins an already lengthy list of Crusaders who will be watching from the sideline on Friday night.
In addition to Perry and Taufua, captain Sam Whitelock (concussion), midfielder Ryan Crotty (concussion), props Owen Franks (suspension) and Joe Moody (suspension), and wing Manasa Mataele (hamstring) are out.
Hooker Ben Funnell (knee), prop Oli Jager (shoulder) and loose forward Tom Sanders (ankle) have also been ruled out for the rest of the season.
The Hurricanes beat the Crusaders 29-19 in Wellington in March, a fixture the Crusaders lost Whitelock and Crotty to concussion early in the first half. They were also without then injured first-five Richie Mo’unga and props Moody and Franks.
The Crusaders lead the Hurricanes by a point on the standings, but have played an extra game.
Rain is forecast in Christchurch on Friday night.