Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder says the odds are against Kieran Read playing in Saturday's qualifying match against the Bulls in Christchurch.
All Blacks' No8 Read damaged ribs in the win over the Chiefs in Hamilton a fortnight ago and missed Saturday's victory over the Force in Christchurch. He had earlier missed the loss to the Hurricanes due to concussion.
Scans have revealed that Read has cartilage damage and Blackadder today rated him "60-40 in doubt'' for the sudden death match at AMI Stadium.
"He's still not quite right, and I'll probably internally have a really good look at our team tomorrow because I'd rather us just get prepared and get on with it,'' he said.
The Crusaders didn't miss Read against the Force - Richie McCaw had a strong game at No8 before being replaced at halftime, along with playmaker Dan Carter - but they could do with his physicality against the big Bulls players who base their game around defence and their set piece.
McCaw is likely to stay at No8 if Read is unavailable, with Matt Todd, who played well against the Force on the openside flank, staying in the No7 jersey.
When asked about the Crusaders' reliance on McCaw and Carter - the Force won the second half of the match 21-6 once the pair had been replaced by Luke Whitelock and
Tom Taylor respectively, Blackadder said: "Their influence is huge but also what they command from the guys around them. By taking them off, you're certainly taking your two best players off. The other guys go in there and do a good job, but it's probably the message it sends everyone else, we can take the foot off the gas ... we've got the game won.
"It wasn't the fact we weren't trying, we blew about six opportunities in the second half. If we had got those it would have been a different scoreline.
"I'm pleased where we are at, it gave the other guys game time. Luke will be better for that experience and so will Tom Taylor.
"We made a lot of changes and fell off the pace a bit but I felt the game was won at halftime.''
Blackadder said his players were looking forward to playing the Bulls at home in a knockout game, after losing to them at in Pretoria in similar stages in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
"I think Richie's lost three in knockout stages to the Bulls so we're pretty determined to do well.''
The Reds host the Sharks in Brisbane on Saturday night in the other qualifier match. The Stormers and Chiefs have a bye this weekend. The winners of the qualifiers progress to the semifinals.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick