New Zealand have suffered two further injury scares ahead of the fast-approaching three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
Full-back Ben Smith failed a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) and Ryan Crotty picked up a suspected rib cartilage issue in the Crusaders’ thrilling 25-22 Super Rugby victory over the Highlanders.
Mitch Hunt’s snap overtime drop-goal stole victory for the Crusaders who had trailed for much of the second half, with the Canterbury men just securing their 14th win in 14 regular-season matches.
Highlanders star Smith landed awkwardly and straight onto his face from a tap-tackle, and did not return after a head-injury check.
Playmaking centre Crotty was also unable to continue after a heavy hit that left him in clear pain.
The All Blacks are already sweating over the fitness of star hooker Dane Coles, who continues to battle concussion concerns. Coles’ Hurricanes boss Chris Boyd has admitted the 30-year-old remains a serious doubt for the Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs on June 9.
The All Blacks will host Samoa in a warm-up Test on June 16, before the Lions series kicks off on June 24.
Experienced number eight Kieran Read is also yet to prove his fitness following a broken thumb, but continues to hope he can be ready to start the Lions series.