Centre Braydon Ennor is the latest to join an ever-growing list of broken Crusaders.
The one-test All Black will miss Saturday night’s clash against the Hurricanes in Christchurch with a foot injury, thrusting rookie Fetuli Paea into the team’s starting side for the first time.
Ennor sustained the injury against the Blues before the team’s bye, when someone trod on his foot in the 26-15 win.
A couple of days after it was confirmed vice-captain David Havili (thumb) was done for the season, the good news is Ennor could be back next week against the Chiefs.
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‘’It’s taken probably a week longer than we thought it would take to recover…the plan is next week all going well, but maybe a couple of weeks,’’ Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said.
‘’He just got landed on. It was hard for him to walk for the first week but it’s freeing up quite a bit now and his return to run stuff has been really good. He’s got all the imaging and stuff, it’s a feel thing, it’s getting better every day.’’
Paea, a Tongan sevens and 15s representative, debuted off the bench against the Highlanders in Dunedin earlier this month, and came on late against the Blues a fortnight ago.
The 25-year-old Tasman utility’s promotion to start at centre is one of two changes Robertson has made to his starting side, the other being competition leading try-scorer (five) Will Jordan replacing Havili at fullback.
Robertson, and captain Codie Taylor, have no doubt Paea will be up to the task against the formidable Hurricanes’ midfield pairing of Ngani Laumape and Peter Umaga-Jensen a week after they feasted on the Blues.
’’He’s worked really hard behind the scenes. He’s someone not a lot of people know about, but he’s actually a bloody talented rugby player,’’ Taylor said.
“He really wants to learn and that’s what he has done this whole season before Covid, and even this competition now. He’s made a big impact when he’s been on the field. I’m just excited to see him rip in.’’
In Havili’s absence, wings Sevu Reece and George Bridge will provide midfield cover, while the 4-0 Crusaders will carry a specialist first five-eighth – Brett Cameron – on the bench for the first time in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Cameron hasn’t played a Super Rugby match since March 14, when the Crusaders beat the Sunwolves in their final match before Covid-19 halted the competition.
Robertson accepted it had been a difficult time for the one-test All Black, who has been turning out for Christchurch club Lincoln while Havili covered Richie Mo’unga.
‘’Probably a good thing about that is he’s played a lot of club rugby, led a team and just got numbers under his belt.
“When you’ve got depth and you’ve got someone that is so versatile and is your vice captain, it means you can carry a bit more firepower on the bench without carrying a 10.
“It’s hard for him, but now is his time. We know he is competent and confident.’’
Unlike Cullen Grace, who required surgery to repair his broken thumb (Bennett’s fracture), Robertson confirmed Havili would not go under the knife but would still need between six and eight weeks to mend.
That’s nothing compared to his Tasman teammate Ethan Blackadder, who had knee surgery on Monday night and will miss the coming Mitre 10 Cup. Robertson expects him back for Super Rugby next season.
‘’They [injuries] would be concerning if we had 10 games left or so. But it’s quite interesting, the depth of our squad, every time someone has got an opportunity they have taken it, and they haven’t really given the jersey away,’’ Robertson said.
AT A GLANCE
Crusaders v Hurricanes
Where: Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
When: Saturday, 7.05pm
Referee: James Doleman
TAB odds: Crusaders $1.21 Hurricanes $4.10
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Fetuli Paea, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Tom Christie, Tom Sanders, Mitchell Dunshea, Samuel Whitelock, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor (captain), Joe Moody. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, George Bower, Oliver Jager, Quinten Strange, Sione Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, Leicester Fainga’anuku.
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Jackson Garden-Bachop, TJ Perenara (captain), Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Scott Scrafton, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Fraser Armstrong. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Tevita Mafileo, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Vaea Fifita, Jamie Booth, Vince Aso, Chase Tiatia.