The Crusaders will be able to field close to their most powerful selection when they tackle the Stormers in a Super Rugby semifinal at Newlands on Saturday.
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Crusaders assistant coach Daryl Gibson revealed on Wednesday that apart from the return of regular captain Richie McCaw, star No.8 Kieran Read have also made a miraculous recovery from injury.
McCaw, who has missed large chunks of the season after pre-season foot surgery and was unavailable for the last month due to discomfort in the same foot, is "pretty close" to being declared fit.
"We anticipate Richie will be back and he will lead the team," Gibson said from the team's base in Cape Town.
Read, who damaged his ankle in the 36-8 win over the Sharks in Nelson last Saturday, is "the only real serious injury" concern, but according to Gibson he is expected to be fit as well.
That means the only high profile players remaining on the casualty list are Israel Dagg (thigh) and Adam Whitelock (chest muscle).
Gibson was full of praise for the team's medical staff, who he said had worked overtime to patch up and rehabilitating injured players in this expanded Super Rugby season.
"It's been one of those seasons where he have had to juggle guys all year.
"It is a pure luxury in this competition to be able to put out a close to full strength team at this time of year.
"It is a credit to our management and medical staff who have got it just right when we needed it."
Gibson suggested Read's recovery from his ankle injury was a blessing given the stern physical test they anticipate against the Stormers, who qualified in second place after the round robin phase of the competition.
"The Stormers like to physically intimidate and dominate teams and it will be close to a Test match intensity.
"We'd love Kieran to play. He's a big man and in these sorts of games, where it's going to be such a big, physical contest, you need your big stars playing.
"We are going to need guys like Kieran, who is a big ball carrier for us and who throws himself into contact."
The Crusaders beat the Stormers at Newlands in Round 12 in May, which Gibson did not think would do his players any harm as they built towards the semifinal.
"It was obviously huge, just in that belief factor that we know we can win here.
"We won here with a much weaker team so that certainly plays into it."
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