The Sharks will look to summon a minor miracle when they face hosts the Crusaders in a Super Rugby qualifier at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday, July 21, kick-off at 09h35 CAT.
The Crusaders crushed New Zealand rivals the Blues 54-17 last weekend to complete a superb league phase of the competition which saw them finish top of both the overall log and their country’s Conference.
The victory over their Auckland rivals brought up a 12th successive win for the ‘Saders and their 14th from 16 regular season matches.
Coach Scott Robertson has created a machine of a team, which features powerhouse players such as Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock and Wyatt Crocket, as well as the finishing skills of Israel Dagg and the kicking acumen of Richie Mo’unga.
The Sharks, by contrast, managed just seven wins from their 16 league matches and only squeezed into the quarterfinals on points difference ahead of the Melbourne Rebels – they both finished with 36 log points.
The Durban side’s 20-10 home win over the Jaguares last weekend was key to their advancement into the final eight, and represented a fifth successive home victory.
Yet the problem for Robert du Preez’s team is their form on the road: they have won just once outside of Durban this year – a 63-40 win at the Blues in March – and expecting them to claim a second at the home of the competition’s form team is surely asking too much.
Nonetheless, the likes of Thomas Du Toit, Ruan Botha, Dan du Preez and Andre Esterhuizen will look to inspire the Sharks to an unlikely victory against a Crusaders team which will have all of the pressure and focus on them.
In head-to-head stats, the Crusaders and Sharks have met in 22 matches. The Christchurch team has claimed 16 wins compared to just five for the Durban-based franchise.
The teams’ last meeting was in March 2016, with the Crusaders claiming a narrow 19-14 away victory – it was their third successive win over the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks – head-to-head
Matches played 22
Crusaders wins 16
Sharks wins 5
Crusaders points 710
Sharks points 504
15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tim Perry
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Wian Vosloo, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Makazole Mapimpi
Sharks Prop Tendai ‘ Beast’ Mtawarira will play his 150th Super game for the Sharks, he currently holds the record for being the most capped Super Rugby player for a single franchise.