WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Five things to know about the seventh round of the Super Rugby competition:
READ ALL ABOUT IT — Crusaders captain Keiran Read will play his 100th Super Rugby match on Friday when the Christchurch-based meets the Hurricanes, joining a fast-growing group of players who have achieved the milestone this season. The All Blacks backrower was both New Zealand's and the International Rugby Board's Player of the Year last season but remains modest and team-orientated. "This is my team," Read said of the Crusaders, for whom he debuted in 2007. "I've been playing for the Crusaders virtually since my professional rugby career began and I feel very proud to have represented this team for 100 games."
INJURIES BITE SHARKS — The title hopes of Super Rugby leaders the Sharks have taken a double blow with injuries to flyhalf Patrick Lambie and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach. Lambie will miss the remainder of the season after tearing a biceps tendon during last week's loss to the Bulls in Pretoria. The Springboks No. 10 will undergo surgery and is expected to be sidelined for six months while Reinach is out for eight weeks with a broken hand. The Durban-based Sharks, who previously lost Pieter-Steph du Toit to a season-ending knee injury now face the New South Wales Waratahs, who are without leading tryscorer Israel Folau to a bruised throat.
SORRY ABOUT THAT CHIEFS — Assistant coach Wayne Smith says there has been some hard talking since the defending champion Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season last weekend to the Perth-based Western Force. The Chiefs now face two tough matches in South Africa, against the Bulls and Cheetahs, and are determined to ensure one loss doesn't turn into a longer slump. "There's always pretty hard talking in this team," Smith said. "The coaches don't tend to hide anything and the players like it up front, so it's better to be transparent. We've got that sort of environment where we're prepared to stab in the belly than talk behind people's backs."
QUEENSLAND NOT RED-FACED — The Queensland Reds are the most penalized team in Super Rugby, but flyhalf Quade Cooper says they aren't the bad boys of the tournament. "It looks that way at the moment," Cooper said. "When you are penalized so much it is detrimental to your game so we have to fix that up. But the attitude of the boys is the most important thing. We continue to be positive and to work hard." Cooper said he had no idea why referees found fault with the Reds' style. "That's a question for the referees," he said. "We are not going to worry about referees' opinions of the team or ways they might find to penalize us, that's not how we are approaching each game."
BRUMBIES KICK WITHOUT LEALIIFANO — Christian Lealiifano will make his first appearance of the season for the ACT Brumbies from the bench at the Melbourne Rebels this. But while Lealiifano says he's eager to get back into action, he doesn't want to reclaim the goal kicking duties just yet. Lealiifano underwent ankle surgery during the offseason and says he wants more time before he tests his recovery by kicking goals. "I probably wouldn't mind Whitey (Nic White) to keep going," Lealiifano said. "Not only just to give my ankle a bit of a break ... but just trying to get rhythm again." Lealiifano had an 88 percent success rate with goal kicks last season.