Wellington — The Crusaders started their long trek from Christchurch to SA in search of their eighth Super Rugby title with Kieran Read and Owen Franks on the aircraft despite limping off in the semi-final win over the Chiefs.
All Blacks captain Read hurt his knee and went off in the final few minutes of the 27-13 victory at Rugby League Park, while Franks was replaced at half-time after a long-standing Achilles injury flared up.
The Crusaders were required to wait until after the semifinal between the Lions and Hurricanes before they knew where they would be playing the final and headed to the airport soon after the South Africans won the game 44-29.
Both players were heading to SA, the Crusaders told local media on Sunday. Their inclusion was good news for the seven-time champions who again on Saturday showed their ability to win games most other teams would probably lose.
Several of their 14 regular season wins were come-from-behind victories and on Saturday they had virtually no ball but still managed to score four tries.
It came on a tremendous forward effort in atrocious conditions in the quarterfinal against the Highlanders from Otago, but centre Ryan Crotty believed it would put them in good stead for Ellis Park.
"The boys are pretty proud, it was a massive effort," Crotty said. "We have played two of the best teams in the competition in the last two weeks and they have not been easy games by any stretch of the imagination. Both times were pretty solid defensively, it came down to moments and opportunities that we managed to take."
The Crusaders will need to take all the opportunities they get in Johannesburg after the Lions overran the Hurricanes from 22-3 down.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said: "[The Lions] opened up pretty easily in the first 20 minutes; we created five or six clear and fairly simplistic opportunities and I think the Crusaders can do that as well. It’s not a bridge too far for them but it’s going to be a big challenge and probably the number of forwards in their forward pack is potentially going to stand them in reasonable stead."