The All Black coaches' injury worries show little sign of easing with captain Richie McCaw on the Crusaders' injury list after limping off Carisbrook with strained medial ligaments in his right knee.
The Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder says McCaw could be out for two to six weeks, the last thing the defending champions need after three losses in a row.
That's left the Crusaders on eight points level with the Chiefs and one ahead of the 10th-placed Highlanders.
The Bulls top the table with 18 points, level with the New South Wales Waratahs, but ahead on points differential.
Another South African side, the Sharks, are third on 17, three clear of the Hurricanes, with the Blues another three back in fifth.