Sharks expect tough clash when Crusaders come to Durban

2013-04-03 00:00

THE Crusaders, after having succesfully overcome a physical Stormers outfit at Newlands, are looking to play a more expansive game when they face the Sharks at King’s Park on Friday night.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said he was delighted at the way his revamped scrum had stood up to the Stormers and laid a platform for their weekend 19-14 Super Rugby win in Cape Town.

They lost All Black tighthead prop Owen Franks to a rib injury early in the game at Newlands. Blackadder was forced to switch another All Black, loosehead Wayne Crockett, to the tighthead and rush the inexperienced Joe Moody off the bench.

“Wayne’s contribution was just immense,” Blackadder said. “Only if you have ever been there [in the front row] could you truly understand what an effort that was. Our set piece never went backward — he did a great job.”

Blackadder now has to consider whether to start specialist tighthead Nepo Laulala against the Sharks or stay with the rejigged front row which did the job at Newlands.

The Crusaders have a six-day turnaround (while the Sharks had their bye over the Easter weekend), but Blackadder is confident his charges will be ready on Friday night.

“I don’t think we will be out of gas at all,” Blackadder said. “I think against the Sharks we can open up a bit more. We can play a higher, faster, up-tempo game. There’s plenty in the tank.”

The ease with which the Crusaders covered the gaps left by seasoned Test players (Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keiran Read, Israel Dagg and Franks) underlined the pedigree and composure in the Crusaders squad.

And it impressed Sharks backline coach Grant Bashford.

“That win over the Stormers would have given them huge confidence coming to Durban,” he said yesterday.

“It’s never easy against the Stormers and having that win under the belt just re-affirms what they’re doing and the style of rugby they’re trying to play.

“It was pretty brutal down there, but they had the physicality to match the Stormers as well as the tactical nous to actually play properly against them.

“They offer threats throughout the field, a very good set-piece and they managed to disrupt the Stormers’ lineout so they couldn’t get going and that’s not easy to do so they deserve a lot of credit.”

Bashford said the Sharks players were excited to be measuring themselves against the seven-time champions. “It’s a huge opportunity to play them at home. We didn’t play them last year but they always seem to bring out the best in us.”

He said the players were without a number of big names but they showed against the Stormers that they have excellent cover.

“Guys like Matt Todd and Tyler Bleyendaal played really well against the Stormers. Their system is good and their replacements will step up to the plate.”

Sharks head coach John Plumtree will name his team today and, apart from wing Lwazi Mvovo, who has had surgery on his damaged hand, the squad that outgunned the Rebels will be available.

“The bye did come at a good time with the guys pretty sore after the Brumbies and Rebels games.”

Friday’s game kicks off at 7.10 pm.

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