Super Rugby Aotearoa: Star midfielder Bradyon Ennor eyes timely injury comeback for Crusaders

The Crusaders will likely be galvanised by the timely return of midfield linchpin Braydon Ennor for their Super Rugby Aotearoa final against the Chiefs on Saturday.

The All Blacks centre hasn't played top flight rugby since September, when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the North v South match.

But after two weekends of club rugby, the Crusaders coaching have declared Ennor ready to retake the park in their bid to repeat as Super Rugby Aotearoa champions.

Three of the coaching staff were on hand to watch Ennor take the field for University against Belfast on Saturday and all three left nodding their heads in approval.

"He's played well," says assistant coach Scott Hansen. "He looked dynamic, used his feet well, defended well.

"For him, the conversation now is that he'll become available for selection and we'll do what's best for the team around that."

Ennor's initial recovery timetable had a line through the entire Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, with a view to the inaugural trans-Tasman competition for a return to play.

Ennor working his way back to match fitness by playing club rugby for University.
Ennor working his way back to match fitness by playing club rugby for University. Photo credit: Getty

In recent weeks, hope has built that Ennor may be a welcome injection down the tournament's stretch and his presence for Saturday's final at OrangeTheory Stadium - even if it were off the bench - would be a welcome sight.

"He's a key member of this group," adds Hansen. "He's worked so well to come back.

"His rehab and his recovery, he's done a fantastic job there and he's probably put his hand up earlier than we would've expected.

"But he's done that well through the club path and conversation with him is he's ready to go, so we'll sit down and consider that this week."

The Crusaders midfield depth has been severely tested and taken on a somewhat makeshift look, with All Black Jack Goodhue already lost to a season-ending knee injury.

But Tasman marauder Leicester Fainga'anuku has been superb, filling in next to utility David Havili, and his form could present some selection headaches for the Crusaders coaching staff, considering Ennor's long absence from elite rugby.

Hansen insists the slate has been wiped clean of their last-gasp loss to the Chiefs, as the Crusaders - refreshed after a timely bye week - fine tune their game to final standard.

"When you get into finals weeks, you actually declutter, focus more internally on your game and what you need to do well.

"We know the Chiefs are playing well, but we've had the chance to look at our game too and areas that we can be better, and we're going to have to be at our best this weekend.

"I think you can see some opportunities for growth around the breakdown, and how we're presenting and securing ball, so that'll be key against the Chiefs, because they've got some really good ball threats.

"We'll have to acknowledge that and do a better job this weekend than we did against the Blues."

Join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the Super Rugby Aotearoa final between Crusaders v Chiefs