Super Rugby 2019: Chiefs Sam Cane to be unleashed against Crusaders

Chiefs captain Sam Cane will be free of any minute restriction for Saturday's game against the Crusaders in Fiji.

Coach Colin Cooper confirmed the team's talisman would be let loose in Suva, as the Chiefs look to resuscitate their near-terminal playoffs hopes in a must-win match against the defending champion Crusaders.

The fixture will be the All Blacks flanker's third since his return from a five-month recovery from a neck fracture. He came off the bench in the loss to the Blues, before making his first start - albeit on a 50-minute limit - in the win over the Reds on Friday.

Cooper has loved what he's seen so far from his skipper, who's barely shown a hint of rust after his lengthy absence from the field.

"He's easing back in pretty hard, isn't he?" said Cooper with a grin. "He did some brutal work out there."

"You probably don't realise it until after you look at his game. Some of the hits he put in were huge. He's right back to just about where he was."

"He'll start [this week], he's our captain, and we haven't got a plan for him for this one."

The 27-year-old's form will be a sight for sore All Blacks selector's eyes with the Rugby World Cup in Japan looming ever closer.

With Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea shining brighter every week, the race for the coveted black number seven jersey as shaping to be an intriguing battle.

The Chiefs will need to pull out all the stops if they're to upset the Crusaders, who haven’t tasted defeat since a week six loss to the Waratahs.

Cooper admitted he'd been keeping the physicality to a minimum after their gutsy defensive stand to repel the Reds, where they completed over 240 tackles.

While he took a lot of pride in that performance, Cooper knows that kind of pressure won’t fly against Super Rugby's most potent attacking line-up.

"I don’t think defending for 25 minutes of the game is going to be good enough against the Crusaders. That's why they're on the top of the table."

And what better way to rejuvenate the body than a week in an island paradise, where Copper expects to have the majority of the local support to be in his side's favour.

"We love Fiji, we love playing over there – the fans over there are very supportive of the Chiefs. It'll be like a real home game for us over there.

"Their passion for our game is huge and it's great that we can take a quality Super Rugby game to Suva."

The squad will be without the services of hooker Nathan Harris this week, who's off on his All Blacks-allotted rest. Bradley Slater will move on to the bench as cover for Liam Coltman.

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick will also play no part, but Cooper expects to have him back in the selection frame against the Rebels in Melbourne following next week's bye.


Join us for live updates of Chiefs v Crusaders from 7:30pm Saturday