McCaw is eligible as he was named in the Crusaders 35-man squad at the start of the season
All Black legend Richie McCaw has been given the green light by SANZAR to appear in the Super Rugby play-offs, but that doesn't mean the Crusaders will select him.
McCaw, who has not featured in a single Super Rugby match this season, made his comeback to active duty for his club Christchurch at the weekend.
And after making it through the full 80 minutes, the 32-year-old All Black World Cup-winning captain declared himself "available" for the Crusaders' preliminary play-off (quarterfinal) against the Reds in Christchurch on Saturday.
However, some critics questioned the legitimacy of his possible selection.
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters told this website that there would be no issue with McCaw's selection, should the Crusaders wish to make use of his services - even though the selection rules were changed after the 2011 season.
To be eligible to play in the Super Rugby play-offs a player must have been eligible to play in the country of that team by no later than 1 April of that season; and
a. Named in the official Super Rugby Squad of up to a maximum of 35 players as advised to SANZAR in the required form by the Monday prior to the first round of the regular Super Rugby season that year; or
b. Added to the squad during the season and been included in the match day 22 for four regular season matches for that team; or
c. Granted dispensation by SANZAR to be included in the play-offs. Such dispensation will only be granted in exceptional circumstances where, for example, the ability of the team to name a match day 22 is compromised by injuries to otherwise eligible players in that player's position.
"Richie McCaw is eligible as he was named in the Crusaders 35-man squad at the start of the season and was eligible to play in New Zealand at April 1 this year," Peters told this website in an interview on Monday.
However, this does not guarantee McCaw a starting place or even a spot in the matchday 22.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder revealed on Monday that he has yet to decide if McCaw will play this weekend, but says if he does, he won't be starting.
Blackadder said it would be silly to put McCaw in a position where he could compromise the team and doubts he is yet physically fit enough for the rigours of a full game of playoff intensity.
"He got through the weekend all right and he's really keen to be involved so that's encouraging," Blackadder told ONE Sport.
"I think it'd be silly to put him in that position where he could compromise the team. He's had one game in the last six months so while he's mentally tough he won't be physically fit yet, not to the level that's required.
"He's a quality player, and he's Richie McCaw of course, but at the end of the day he's still got to put the team first."
Blackadder said McCaw was not expecting to simply stroll back into the Crusaders and a decision on his involvement this weekend was likely to be made Tuesday.
"Part of his plan was to always play [some club football] and there was no expectation going forward," he said.
"He's keen and excited to be involved [with the Crusaders] so that's good, but still, ultimately it's our decision. We'll probably make that decision internally tomorrow [Tuesday]."
Although having McCaw available was undoubtedly a positive ahead of such a vital clash, consideration also had to be given to the good work done by the Crusaders' existing loose-forward trio of Kieran Read, Matt Todd, and George Whitelock.
"You've got to make sure you're doing the right thing for the team and making sure, first things first, we've got a game that we've got to win and bringing a guy like Richie back into the team is fantastic and makes selection even harder," Blackadder explained.
"Also too, our loyalty to the guys that have done the job. You can't underestimate the work that they've put in to give us this opportunity, so these decisions are never going to be easy no matter which way you look at it."
By Jan de Koning, with additional reporting by ONE Sport