Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Whitelock ban - Crusaders eyeing Canes threat

Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock, pictured leading his team out against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, has been handed down a two-week ban for striking during his team's win. Photo / Photosport
Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock, pictured leading his team out against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, has been handed down a two-week ban for striking during his team's win. Photo / Photosport

The Crusaders are considering appealing the two-week ban handed down to their skipper Sam Whitelock for striking; and the main motivation for that will be so he is available for their crunch match against the Hurricanes.

They will be reasonably comfortable not having him for the match against the Bulls in Pretoria on Sunday morning, and would probably accept that the lock's elbow or forearm which grazed the face of Cheetahs' replacement prop Charles Marais deserves a sanction, but they will be desperate to have him available for the clash against the defending champions in Christchurch a week on Saturday which has all the makings of a classic.

All Black Whitelock, impressing hugely as captain under Scott Robertson's first season in charge, has had a heavy workload and could probably do with a rest, but his partnership in the second row with Scott Barrett, with Luke Romano coming off the reserves bench to provide real ball carrying impact combined with his own brand of aggression, has been integral to their success this season.

Undefeated after nine matches and sitting four points above the Chiefs at the top of the Super Rugby table, they will be targeting a bonus point win at Loftus Versfeld against a team with only three victories this season, and will need all the quality they can muster to see off the Hurricanes.

Whitelock was yellow carded for the use of his arm, which grazed the cheek of Marais, a retaliatory act after the prop tackled him in mid-air, and it's that lack of impact which is likely to form the basis of a Crusaders' appeal, should they choose to file one.

"We put our case across really clearly - there was no intent," Robertson told Radio Sport. "We thought the pictures were clear enough but they've come to the decision of it's two weeks [out].

"I think that the TMO and the touch judge and the ref have come to the conclusion that it was a glance and he [Whitelock] served his time at the end with 10 minutes [in the sinbin]. They [the Sanzaar judiciary] believe they saw a red card offence.

"We've obviously got the right of appeal. We are not sure if we're going to go there yet. We're looking at advice. Sam just wants to play. He's well respected and for him it's a bit daunting, the outcome."

No 8 Kieran Read's broken thumb, for which he has received surgery, complicates matters for the Crusaders, who have sent for lock Quinten Strange as a reinforcement. Robertson said he was also looking to call up a replacement loose forward.

All Blacks skipper Read is now heading home to Christchurch and is facing a six-week lay-off.

- NZ Herald

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