Crusaders optimistic Sevu Reece will play Reds in Super Rugby Pacific playoff

Sevu Reece appears likely to fire-up his jet shoes for the Super Rugby Pacific quarterfinal after he trained with the Crusaders on Monday.

Wing Reece was forced to retire in the ninth minute of last Friday's match against the Reds, won 28-15 by the Crusaders in Christchurch, because he required a head injury assessment and needed to be replaced by fellow All Black George Bridge.

The re-match against the Reds, who have remained in Christchurch to prepare for the sudden-death fixture, will again be staged at Orangetheory Stadium and the early indications are that Reece will be available to line-up on the right wing.

Crusaders assistant coach Scott Hansen confirmed Reece had given few indications that he was suffering any ill-effects from his head knock but was still required to be closely monitored.

"He's going through his return to play protocols, at this stage, and he has trained today (Monday),'' Hansen said.

"He continues to do that every day (go through the protocols), so the medical staff link-in with him making sure he is alright, and he has bounced back really well from that.

"At this stage Sevu is looking really good for Friday evening.''

If Reece is inked in to start, he will likely join a backline that also includes All Blacks Richie Mo'unga and Jack Goodhue.

First five-eighth Mo'unga, who had been given extra time off to recover from a finger injury, is expected to replace Fergus Burke and Goodhue will likely slot into the No 13 jersey ahead of Braydon Ennor.

Hooker Codie Taylor, who injured ribs against the Brumbies on May 13, should also be fit to start and tighthead prop Fletcher Newell will be refreshed after he was given a break from active duty last weekend.

The Crusaders have already pencilled in their match-day 23 and, barring injuries, should be primed to unleash their strongest team as they aim to go deeper into the playoffs.

Hansen said Taylor and Mo'unga were on target to be declared fit to play.

"It's one of those things where you just get through your week and manage them day to day,'' Hansen noted. "But we are heading towards them being available.

"They just sign-off each day around their medical procedures and make sure they are comfortable. But we see them being available this week, at this stage.''

The Reds, who offered glimpses of their early season form when they clawed their way back from a 21-3 deficit last Friday, are expected to bring centre Hunter Paisami back into their starting XV.

Following their scratchy win the Crusaders had to address their sloppy execution, and the requirement to build pressure in the re-match.

"We just thought on Friday evening that our rhythm was a wee bit off,'' Hansen noted. "Some passes were going to ground that needed to stick.

"We acknowledged that, and it's important for us to be better this weekend. We know the Reds will be much better.''

The Crusaders aren't likely to suddenly shatter their game plans and start again.

There will be tweaks to tactics, without trying to be too clever in a bid to surprise the Reds; in other words the Queenslanders will probably know what to expect, but finding ways to stop the Crusaders could be problematic.

"We continue to focus on our game and that's really important,'' Hansen confirmed. "That's our DNA. What does that look like? Well, we have a pretty strong set piece and the opportunities that it gives us.

"And when we get up to five or six phases, and we have got teams shifting defensively, and we have got momentum, we know that our strength is our backline and ability to find space.''