Read in doubt for Crusaders

Getty Images     17 Jul 2012     Getty Images

8 Kieran Read remains in doubt for the Crusaders home Investec Super Rugby elimination match against the Bulls at AMI Stadium, Christchurch, on Saturday night.

Since the All Blacks Test series with Ireland in June, Read has played just one Super game, starting against the Chiefs but crying off with injured ribs which remain sore. Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder initially rated Read's chance of playing the quarter-final at 50-50, but changed it to 60-40 against on reflection at the Crusaders training on Monday.

"He's still not quite right and internally I'll have a really good look at our team tomorrow because I rather us just prepare and get on with it but otherwise everyone is fit and available," he said.

The Crusaders, ahead 32-3 at halftime, fell away badly in the second half against the Western Force in the last preliminary round in Christchurch last Saturday, losing the second half by 24-6.

Significantly, the decline came at a time Blackadder had replaced both his captain and vice-captain, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, respectively, and Andy Ellis was benched soon after.

Blackadder has always maintained the Crusaders have leaders across the park, but there was a notable lack of it once the seasoned All Blacks were summoned to the pine. "In the second half I made a lot of changes and we fell a little off the pace, but I felt the game was won at half-time.

"It was a good chance to give everyone else a good run and we took some good learnings from it. We're not looking back on last week's performance and thinking we've got a lot of work to do. We're in great space and know what we need to do to keep building."

Blackadder, who was incensed when two Bulls players accused the Crusaders of eye-gouging when the teams met in Pretoria in round seven, said he had put that incident behind him even though he never received an apology which he requested when the allegations were dismissed.

"Certainly both parties weren't happy, but we had a good chat on the phone [with Bulls coach Frans Ludeke] a month later and we have put it behind us. We've had a really good relationship with the Bulls for a long time, long before my time."

The Bulls, who scored a fortuitous 32-30 win in their first clash, have eliminated the Crusaders in their three semi-finals encounters in 2007, 2009 and 2010 with all three matches played in South Africa.

Blackadder welcomes the chance of confronting them in Christchurch. "We know exactly what we will get from the Bulls. They haven't changed one bit of their game plan in the last four years which is a credit to them because they play to their strengths all the time."

Blackadder said the Crusaders would focus on lineouts this week. "They've probably been the best lineout technicians for the last three or four years and they've built their game on that.

"Victor Matfield is coaching them and you can see his legacy is still there. The stats tell me they've got the best defensive lineout in the competition so the systems they're using are really effective. We've got to do our homework and outsmart them."