Battered Sharks to face fresh Saders

2009-04-13 00:00

The Sharks, recovering from a battering by the Cheetahs, will be up against a Crusaders team fresh from their week’s bye in their Super 14 clash at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

While the Sharks were set on their heels by the unexpected defeat, the Crusaders have been lifted by three successive victories and have All Black captain and flank Richie McCaw returning from injury.

The Crusaders arrived in Durban at the weekend and meet the Sharks, Cheetahs and Lions on their South African travels.

Todd Blackadder, the Crusaders coach, refused to read too much into the Sharks’ weekend thumping and described John Plumtree’s team as a physically tough, direct side who “play with a lot of intensity”.

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford said last night that the players were down after their error-ridden Bloemfontein performance, which surprised both friend and foe.

“We have analysed the game, and spoken about it, and the bottom line is that you cannot make that many basic mistakes and hope to get a result,” he said.

“Our strengths this season were suddenly our weaknesses on Saturday. We struggled in the set pieces, at the breakdown and in defence. But we haven’t suddenly become a poor team and we will be back.

“We couldn’t break the downward spiral, but you must give credit to the Cheetahs. They were up for the game and we looked sluggish.”

Blackadder said that he was pleased his side were playing the Sharks in their tour opener as this had enabled the squad to concentrate on the King’s Park game in preparing for the tour.

The Crusaders, after their hesitant start to their campaign, beat the Waratahs, Stormers and Bulls before having their weekend off.

Blackadder has All Black scrumhalf Andy Ellis nursing a rib injury and has travelled with three scrumhalves — Ellis, Kahn Fotuali’i and Tyson Keats — as a precaution.

He said he is nevertheless confident that Ellis and McCaw, who has missed the last four games with a medial ligament strain, will be fit to face the Sharks, while fullback Jared Payne is also over his injury.

The Crusaders have lost All Black wing Casey Laulala, who broke his arm in the 16-13 win over the Bulls in Christchurch.

Blackadder is in a confident mood.

“The guys are really upbeat,” he said. “They’ve had a good break from rugby and are raring to go against the Sharks.”

Blackadder suggested McCaw would start against the Sharks.

“Richie is one of the best players in the world and it’s great news that he’s on track to return.”

The match kicks off at 5.05 pm on Saturday.

Crusaders squad: Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Bronson Murray, Peter Borlase, Jason Macdonald, Daniel Perrin, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Ross Filipo, Kieran Read, Michael Paterson, Thomas Waldrom, Richie McCaw, George Whitelock, Andy Ellis, Tyson Keats, Kahn Fotualiíi, Stephen Brett, Colin Slade, Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Adam Whitelock, Jared Payne, Leon MacDonald, Kade Poki, Hamish Gard.

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