Scott Robertson has backed his injury-hit Crusaders to "rise up to the occasion" against the Blues after losing Ethan Blackadder and lock Zach Gallagher for Friday's Super Rugby Pacific semifinal.
In his first match since March, All Blacks flanker Blackadder lasted only a few minutes in the quarterfinal win over Fijian Drua before limping off with a quadriceps injury.
Robertson confirmed Blackadder would join a raft of All Blacks ruled out for the rest of the Crusaders' bid for a seventh championship trophy in seven years.
"We really feel for him, he trained so hard to get back," Robertson told New Zealand media on Wednesday.
Gallagher injured a calf against the Drua, leaving the defending champions short in their second row stocks, with All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock still sidelined.
Captain Scott Barrett and Quinten Strange will start in the second row, with Dominic Gardiner covering lock from the bench in the matchday squad named on Wednesday.
The Crusaders' injury woes have boosted the Blues' chances of ending the hosts' run of 28 playoff wins in Christchurch.
But outgoing coach Robertson backed his team to stand up.
"I think any Crusaders team that's named will rise up to the occasion, it's going to be a hell of a weekend, it's got that feeling about it, hasn't it?" he said.
"It's a physical game, we're going to get injuries ... You don't want to start getting in the excuse bin."
All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo'unga, who suffered cramp against Drua and exited early, retains the number 10 jersey against a Blues team in far better health after a dominant quarterfinal win over the New South Wales Waratahs.
All Black Caleb Clarke returns to the left wing after recovering from an ankle injury, joining a nearly full-strength Blues line-up.
The winner of Friday's clash will meet either the Chiefs or the Brumbies in the final. The Chiefs host the Brumbies in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Blues ended an 18-year losing streak in Christchurch last year against the Crusaders but then lost the championship decider 21-7 at home to Robertson's side.
The Crusaders have since resumed their dominance, winning home and away against the Blues this year.
"We know we’re going down into enemy territory and are prepared to face the music," said Blues captain Dalton Papali'i.