‘A taste of what to expect at WCup’

2011-03-24 00:00

THE inclusion of Jacques-Louis Potgieter in place of injured flyhalf Pat Lambie is the only change to the Sharks’ starting line-up for Sunday’s Super Rugby clash against the seven-times champions Crusaders in London.

Lambie, with a broken finger, will miss the Sharks’ next three games (against the Crusaders and the home fixtures against the Stormers and Lions) and Potgieter will make his first start for the Durban franchise at Twickenham. John Smit will lead the team from loosehead prop — as he did against the Chiefs in Hamilton last week — with “the Beast” Mtawarira again on the bench.

Head coach John Plumtree has made changes to the bench, boosting the scrum by including a second prop in Eugne van Staden. He replaces Craig Burden and Smit will cover hooker. JP Pietersen, back from knee surgery, takes over from Potgieter on the bench while big lock Gerhard Mostert travels in place of Anton Bresler.

Smit says that playing the Crusaders in London will be an advantage, but both he and coach Plumtree readily concede that the Sharks face a massive challenge on Sunday.

Smit said that it would be “less frightening” than playing in Christchurch.

“It is surely easier playing them at Twickenham than facing that crusade of horses that comes around before the game and then the smoke that hits the field in Christchurch,” said Smit.

The Sharks captain said that the challenge of playing all their games away from home had brought out the character in the Crusaders.

“But this is also a chance for us to give something to the people of Christchurch after the huge trauma they suffered [with the earthquake].

“If going to London to play a game of rugby is what we can do to help, then that’s a really easy decision.”

Plumtree said the Crusaders had “improved considerably” since the start of the Super Rugby season and they were “certainly the form side in the competition”.

“They’re scoring lots of points and looking at their backs, from nine to 15, they’re all big boys, all genuine threats and not far off from an All Black backline.

“Their forwards lay the platform as you would expect from a pack loaded with All Blacks.”

The Sharks coach said the Crusaders’ continuity starts at the breakdown and at the tackle.

“We have to make sure we do a good job in the tackle area and that we’re competitive at the breakdown. We cannot allow them any space.”

Plumtree admitted that the Sharks would have to play above themselves to win.

“It’s going to be require a huge effort from us. We’re capable, we can do that and the players are excited about the challenge. It will certainly be a contest.”

The Crusaders have promised to play an expansive, ball-in-the-hand approach to give the northern hemisphere — and the expected crowd of 55 000 — a taste of what to expect at the Rugby World Cup later this year.

“We really pride ourselves on playing a fast, open style of play and scoring plenty of tries,” said All Black flyhalf Dan Carter shortly after arriving in London after the 24-hour flight from Auckland.

“It will be a bit different to the really tough, physical, gruelling competition [over here]. It can be a bit risky at times but we like to use the ball. With the new law interpretations it gives you the confidence to do that.

Crusaders’ captain Kieran Read agreed:

“We hope to play our style which is with the ball and that is not going to change come Sunday. We are hoping to play an expansive game which suits us perfectly.”

Kick-off is at 5 pm and the Crusaders will at least have a New Zealand referee for this “home” game with Steve Walsh, in Europe for the Six Nations, taking charge.

 

SHARKS TEAM

15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. John Smit (c).

Replacements: 16. Eugene van Staden, 17. Tendai Mtawarira,18. Gerhard Mostert,19. Jacques Botes, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Adrian Jacobs, 22. JP Pietersen.

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