Sharks face test in lineouts

2013-04-05 00:00

THE Crusaders have been hit by further disruptions ahead of tonight’s Super Rugby outing at King’s Park, but this news will be of cold comfort to the inconsistent Sharks.

The seven-time champions arrived in South Africa without their three world-class players — Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Kieran Read — and have since suffered injuries to fullback Israel Dagg, wing Johnny McNicholl, Test prop Wyatt Crockett and, late on Wednesday, All Black hooker Corey Flynn.

But Sharks head coach John Plumtree and Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee have this week both emphasised that the Crusaders’ strength was the depth and resilience of their talented squad.

The late loss of Flynn to an eye injury did send a flutter through the Crusaders’ camp and replacement hooker Codey Taylor is flying from New Zealand to sit on the bench tonight. Ben Funnell will take over from Flynn in the front-row.

Coach Todd Blackadder has unexpectedly included Crockett (damaged ribs) in the starting line-up, while Dagg has been named on the bench.

He has made two changes to the team that beat the Stormers at Newlands last Saturday. Test scrumhalf Andy Ellis dislodges Willi Heinz while McNicholl (fractured ankle) is replaced by one of the many Whitelocks in the squad, wing Adam. (This will be the first time that the four Whitelock brothers — captain George, Luke, Samuel and Adam — will start a Super Rugby match together).

Plumtree said that the Sharks faced a major challenge across the park.

“The Crusaders’ skill levels are really high, their backs and forwards handle the ball well and our defence will have to be very accurate.

“The Easter bye provided a break, from the intensity of the competition but now it’s a case of mentally switching back on.”

The Sharks have been able to go to school on the Crusaders’ win at Newlands, just as the Stormers did in beating the Brumbies just a week after

Jake White’s team had flourished at King’s Park.

The Crusaders’ two All Black locks, the 2,02 metre Samuel Whitelock and Luke Romano, had a field day against the Stormers’ tall lineout and the Sharks’ Franco van der Merwe and young Pieter-Steph du Toit face a massive challenge tonight.

But the breakdown, as Plumtree pointed out, is crucial to the high tempo, attacking style of rugby which both teams want to play.

The Crusaders pack is crowded with All Blacks, but it is uncapped flank Matt Todd, taking over from

McCaw, who will be a major threat. Blackadder describes Todd as the “breakdown king, a great number seven who is unlucky not to be an All Black”.

The Sharks, without the bruising Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel, lack bulk in the backrow and Bok flank

Coetzee admitted the challenge was “to step up physically”.

“The Crusaders are a championship side. Even without their stars they beat the Stormers with a great team performance. We have to front up, take the game to them and close them down.”

But Coetzee said the players were excited about the occasion.

“It’s great for the team and for me personally. The Crusaders are respected worldwide and having the opportunity to compete against them will be awesome.”

The Sharks have the advantage of playing at home, and will be fresh after their bye, while the Crusaders have had a short week disrupted by injury.

But, in terms of form, the stop-start Sharks are still short of their best while the workmanlike, composed and confident Crusaders are on a roll.

The result should be a bruising, close contest with the Sharks, after the Brumbies’ loss, desperate not to lose again at home.

TEAMS:

Sharks:

15. Francois Steyn, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12.Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8.Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Riaan Viljoen, 22. Louis Ludik/S’bura Sithole.

Crusaders: 15. Tom Marshall; 14. Adam Whitelock, 13. Robbie Fruean, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. Zac Guildford; 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 9. Andy Ellis; 8. Luke Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 6. George Whitelock (captain); 5. Samuel Whitelock, 4. Luke Romano; 3. Owen Franks, 2. Ben Funnell, 1. Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: 16. Codie Taylor 17. Joe Moody, 18. Dominic Bird, 19. Jordan Taufua, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Telusa Veainu, 22. Israel Dagg.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm. Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (RSA).

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first, SA times):

Today:

Blues vs Highlanders, 8.35 am.

Brumbies vs Kings, 10.40 am.

Sharks vs Crusaders, 7.10 pm.

Tomorrow:

Hurricanes vs Waratahs, 8.35 am

Force vs Rebels, 10.40 am.

Cheetahs v Stormers, 5.05 pm

Byes: Bulls, Chiefs, Reds.

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