George Whitelock’s tour of South Africa is over before it began. The flanker has injured a knee in training and will be replaced by Jonathan Poff.
The Crusaders’ Official website reports that head coach Todd Blackadder confirmed today that Whitelock injured a medial cartilage in a knee during a team training run in Durban and could be out for up to four weeks. He has an appointment with a specialist in Christchurch on Friday.
Tasman flanker Poff will fly out for Durban first thing in the morning.
“It’s really unfortunate for George. He has been playing really well for us and now he has to fly home without playing a game in South Africa. We all feel for him,” Blackadder said.
The news comes as All Blacks and Crusaders captain Richie McCaw gets set to play his first game back from his own knee injury – hurt in the round three defeat by the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Whitelock has played a key role in McCaw’s absence and has looked a quality player in the No 7 jersey, particuarly with his defence.
Blackadder said McCaw was looking in good shape and is on target to face the Sharks at Absa Stadium in Durban early on Sunday morning (NZ time).
“He seems to be in really good physical shape. He’s looking good to go,” Blackadder said.
Loose forward options for Blackadder include McCaw, Kieran Read, Thomas Waldrom, Michael Paterson and Poff.
Halfback Andy Ellis, who missed the last game against the Bulls with sore ribs, will be bracketed with Kahn Fotuali’i. “Andy is running around and doing everything we’re asking but we want to leave it until the last moment before making a decision.”
Tyson Keats is also with the squad as cover for halfback.
There are no other injury concerns for Blackadder, who added the upset victory by the Cheetahs over the table-topping Sharks last weekend might not necessarily be a bad thing for the Crusaders.
“They played really well. It just shows you that anyone can beat anyone in this competition. We know the Sharks are at home and will bring their A game against us but the Cheetahs showed the way. They hit the Sharks’ midfield at pace and that’s something we might look to implement too.”
Blackadder added that the players were in good heart and looking forward to celebrating Ross Filipo’s 30th birthday tonight.Tweet