The Sharks will host the Crusaders at Kings Park on Friday, 5 April 2013, for Round 8 of the 2013 Super Rugby tournament.
It’s also The Sharks franchise’s 99th home game in Vodacom Super Rugby (which includes two matches in Port Elizabeth and one in East London) against a team who – judging by history – enjoys playing in Durban.
The Sharks’ record against the Crusaders is not great – they’ve played each other 16 times, with the Cantabrians winning 14 of these and the team from KwaZulu-Natal two, both at Kings Park. This will be the Crusaders’ seventh visit to Durban, where they have won four times already.
Interestingly enough, The Sharks have only played 16 of their 98 home matches to date on Friday evenings – of those they have won seven and lost nine.
But the stats will count for very little when these teams meet on Friday – what will be of a concern for The Sharks, will be the Crusaders’ run of three successive wins against South African teams, the latest coming last weekend in Cape Town against the DHL Stormers.
Should the Crusaders win on Friday, they will emulate their unbeaten seasons against South African teams from 1998, 2002 and 2008.
“The Crusaders’ skill levels are really high,” said John Plumtree, coach of The Sharks. “Their backs and forwards handle the ball well, so our defensive plan is going to have to be very accurate. The breakdown is also going to be huge and we need to be competitive there.
“You can’t have a meltdown in an area like the lineouts. It takes good, hard work to get into an attacking situation, and then to lose ball puts you under immense pressure. And you don’t want to be doing that against a team like the Crusaders who are able to hold on to the ball for long periods of time.
“The lineout has been a big focus for us, not only for this match but throughout the competition. We’re operating at around 84% and we’ve been going OK, but it is going to be tough, the Crusaders boast All Black locks.
“There is a mixture of reasons why the Stormers lineout failed, it’s not one person, it takes a good throw, a good lift, a good jump and hopefully the same thing won’t happen to us.”
Note: Other foreign teams that have won all their matches against SA opposition in one season are the Brumbies (2000), Highlanders (1998 and 2002), Blues (2003), Reds (2002 and 2011), Waratahs (2002 and 2005) and Chiefs (2012).
The teams are:
The Sharks: Frans Steyn, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Meyer Bosman, JP Pietersen, Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Keegan Daniel (captain), Marcell Coetzee, Jacques Botes, Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst, Anton Bresler, Ryan Kankowski, Charl McLeod, Riaan Viljoen, Louis Ludik / Sbura Sithole.
Crusaders: Tom Marshall, Adam Whitelock Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford, Tyler Bleyendaal, Andy Ellis, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd, George Whitelock (captain), Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Jordan Taufua, Willi Heinz, Telusa Veainu, Israel Dagg.