Rugby Union

Crusaders braced for Shark attack in Christchurch

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The Crusaders are braced for a semi-final shark-attack tomorrow in Christchurch, when the seven times Super Rugby Champions welcome Jake White's Sharks for a second time this season.

The Sharks return to the scene of one their most famous Super Rugby wins when they take on the Crusaders tomorrow, in what should be a pulsating clash between the best of South Africa and New Zealand.

Repeat performance

During the regular season, Bismark du Plessis led his Sharks to their first win over the Crusaders in New Zealand, when they triumphed 30-25 with only 14-men, and now almost three-months later, and with a place in the 2014 Super Rugby final at stake, the men from Durban will have to do it all over again if they want to set up a fifth appearance in the final of the southern hemisphere's premier club rugby competition.

Dominant scrum

The Sharks booked their ticket to Christchurch courtesy of a tight 31-27 win over the Highlanders at the Shark Tank last week, in a performance that would have left their fans scratching their heads.

From the outset the Durban based outfit dominated the Highlanders in the scrum to such an extent, that the quarter-final clash looked a complete mismatch, with a rout almost inevitable.

Scrum after scrum, the home team simply powered their way straight through the opposition set-piece, in what appeared to be a contest between men and boys.

In fact their scrum dominance was at times brutal, and something I have never seen before at club or international level.

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Credit, however, must go to the Highlanders and their ability to play an expansive attacking game in broken play, which kept them in the game until the dying moments, something that the Crusaders will simply not let them get away with tomorrow.

Both sides have everything to play for tomorrow, with the Sharks gunning for their first Super Rugby title and the Crusaders looking for their first win since 2008.

There will be nothing to hide from either of the teams when the whistle blows, as they will know what to expect from each individual and what team approach each other will bring to the table.


Both sides show changes from their last meeting, most notably the return of IRB World Player of the Year, Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Israel Dagg for the Crusaders, all three of whom were absent last time out, and a world class trio that brings 201 All Black caps between them into tomorrows clash.

The Sharks also show changes as they welcome back their pivot, Pat Lambie, who returns following a three-month injury lay-off. Lambie's return gives the Sharks backs a better balance as Frans Steyn returns to his preferred position of 12 while Springbok wing JP Pietersen slots in back at 14, his most effective role for the team.

The biggest selection surprise is Dan Carter who starts at 12, instead of his usual fly-half, Colin Slade being preferred there from the outset. This selection suggests the Crusaders will be looking for field position and territory with the boot during the early stages.

It also sets up an intriguing confrontation between Steyn and Carter, two players that make things happen for their respective teams, and a physical battle that Steyn will be looking to dominate.

Kieran Read will have a big part to play tomorrow

The Sharks pack will not have things there own way this week like they did last time out against the Highlanders, although their driving maul from the line-out has been measured by few opposition this season.

Loose forward battle

The loose forward battle between Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee against Kieran Read, Matt Todd and Richie McCaw could ultimately decide the outcome of the semi-final, in what looks to be an outstanding prospect. 

On paper you would say the Crusaders would get the better of their opposition in this particular battle, however the recent form of the Sharks trio, the fact that Willem Alberts is playing in the second row and then include the brilliant ball stealing ability of Bismarck du Plessis, then one might think a little differently.

It's a tall order for the Sharks, however one that is certainly achievable as they showed earlier in the season. Come what may, it has the potential to be a blockbuster of a game for the rugby purist and one not to be missed.


Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Thomas du Toit.

Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Sibusiso Sithole, 23 Tonderai Chavhanga.

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Dan Carter
South Africa Rugby
New Zeland Rugby
Rugby Union

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