By CHRIS RATTUE, WYNNE GRAY
Adrian Cashmore will be playing on a distant memory if called upon in tomorrow's Super 12 semifinal between the Chiefs and Brumbies, and he won't be alone.
The Chiefs arrived in Canberra on a clear winter's day just hours after coach Ian Foster announced he was calling former All Black Cashmore on to the reserves bench.
Foster said Cashmore's experience would be especially valuable if the conditions were cold and moist.
Cold is a certainty in Canberra, though frost is about as serious as the moisture content gets here at the moment. This is a city of contrasts, the winter air a strange companion to the expanses of brown grass in a rain-deprived area.
It has also been a long time between Super 12 drinks for Cashmore, who joined the squad as cover when Loki Crichton was sidelined three weeks ago.
The 30-year-old Cashmore is the bolt out of the blue, or make that the Blues, for the historic clash in Canberra.
His sudden appearance is a reminder of a bygone era of Blues glory - he will join Carlos Spencer as the only remaining foundation Blues player still in the Super 12.
His last campaign was in 2000 - for an ailing team.
Cashmore has returned from Japan and is set to play for Bay of Plenty, where his provincial career began, and is now a bona fide Chief after replacing Grant McQuoid on the bench for the semifinal.
Alongside Cashmore will be loose forward Scott Couch, who hasn't been trotted out since a round-two bench appearance against the Reds in Brisbane - although insiders say he has been an outstanding trainer, despite being left in the cold.
Couch replaces Wayne Ormond, who is promoted to the starters for the injured Sione Lauaki.
Who knows what role a replacement might have. Chiefs hooker Scott Linklater could barely get on the field when Tom Willis was fit, but is now one of the front-line troops.
If injuries don't strike, Cashmore may be a spectator. If there is an early casualty, he could play a major role.
And though the Cashmore of old was a gifted player, he must now be an unknown quantity after such a long break from the top and with the game having evolved since his heyday.
So it remains to be seen whether Cashmore, an excellent long-range goalkicker, can make the grade if called upon.
As for Couch, he will be itching for action, and likely to see it after the starting forwards have thrown everything at the Brumbies.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders have not given up hope that top halfback Justin Marshall will recover from his hip injury for tomorrow's opening semifinal against the Stormers.
Marshall was not picked in the side yesterday, but he did complete a light training well enough for the medical staff to give him another fitness assessment today.
"Justin is experienced enough not to compromise the team with any decision; he is mature enough to know if he is right or not," coach Robbie Deans said.
"It will be close, but we have not dismissed his chances. I am surprised we have got this far, but Justin is not your normal run-of-the-mill bloke."
Lock Chris Jack, concussed last week against the Hurricanes, is a definite casualty. He did not even bother with psychometric testing this week because he still felt unwell after being clobbered by a high tackle from Jerry Collins.
* Visit nzherald.co.nz throughout the weekend for Super 12 updates.
2004 Super 12 draw, results and points table
New Zealand squads and information
South African squads
By CHRIS RATTUE, WYNNE GRAY