Sportal.co.nz 29.Jun.2012Getty Images
No. 8 Kieran Read, first five-eighths, Dan Carter, and fullback Israel Dagg have all been ruled out for the crucial contest at AMI Stadium. Richie McCaw will continue to play off the back of the scrum and rookie Tom Taylor returns for Carter. Sean Maitland, usually a wing, will take Dagg's place in what will be his first appearance since being dropped after the Crusaders lost to the Rebels on May 12.
"You've got to expect injuries and I knew because of the June tests we'd have some sort of a toll in the squad," Blackadder said after the Crusaders finished training on Thursday.
"We trust our players. It is not the first time Richie has played No. 8 for the Crusaders and we trust Sean Maitland at fullback to come in and do the job for us. We've got every reason to trust Tom Taylor as he did a fantastic job in the No. 10 jersey against the Stormers and helped us win that game. You're only as good as your depth and it is going to be tested this week."
The month-long Super break for the international window hardly came at a good time for the Crusaders who had just hit their straps, scoring more than 50 points against the Blues and the Highlanders in rounds 14 and 15.
"You can't expect to start where we left off – we had a lot of momentum and were playing really well. We've got to earn the ride because you can't just expect it to happen. We've taken a really conservative approach this week and gone through and done the basics really well."
The fourth-placed Crusaders are seven points behind the leader, the Chiefs, but Blackadder firmly believes his team can still get up and top the New Zealand conference and qualify for a home semi-final. The Hurricanes, six points behind the Crusaders and in sixth place, cannot afford to drop this game.
"Everything is on the line in this game as it always is this time of the year. I think the next three weeks will really define where teams fit into this competition. Teams who get this week right and a performance on the track will be really set up for the following two weeks.
"But it is one step at a time and the Hurricanes have a lot to play for as well as us."
The Crusaders scored five tries when outplaying the Hurricanes, 42-14, in their first outing in Wellington in April. Interestingly four of the tries were scored by the three injured All Blacks – Dagg (two), Carter and Read. Over all, the Crusaders have won 15 of their 21 clashes and drawn two.
1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Corey Flynn, 3.Ben Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.George Whitelock, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Richie McCaw (c), 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Tom Taylor, 11.Zac Guildford, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Robbie Fruean, 14.Adam Whitelock, 15.Sean Maitland.
Reserves: 16.Quentin MacDonald, 17.Owen Franks, 18.Tom Donnelly, 19.Luke Whitelock, 20.Willi Heinz, 21.Tyler Bleyendaal, 22.Patrick Osborne.