Battle for a home semi

2008-05-01 00:00

Sharks coach Dick Muir has opted for size and experience in the pack as his side take on the form team in this year’s Vodacom Super 14, the Crusaders, at AMI Park in Christchurch in their final overseas match.

The good news is that captain Johann Muller came through yesterday’s final practice ahead of the match without any discomfort and will lead the team at lock.

This evening’s game is going to be the match of the weekend and could go a long way in determining the Sharks’ fate. It is certain to be a tester for both sets of forwards.

All season — including the pre-season — the focus and goal was on securing a home semi-final. Eight matches into the season and it appeared that their planning, preparation and execution were all on track, until the bumpy road that was the Brumbies and Waratahs losses.

The Sharks find themselves in third place and, with three matches remaining before the play-offs, in a must-win situation.

The fact that they veered off track in the last two weeks does not translate to writing them off.

Crusaders Captain Richie McCaw believes that the Sharks deserve a lot of respect. "Traditionally in the last few years there have been some tough matches between the two sides. I didn’t play them last year, but the last three games I played, we nearly came second both times at home and we did come second in Durban the last time I was there, and last year as well.

"For us they are right up there. They’re a team that traditionally home and away are tough to beat and a game you always look forward to. They certainly turn up when they play us."

Despite having lost their last two games, the Crusaders expect the Sharks to be up for the match, and with the pressure they have placed upon themselves, the Sharks need to end the tour on a high note. There is also the prospect of losing a home semi-final and possibly having to return to New Zealand for the play-offs.

"They’re a very good side, we’re expecting them to be back at their best this weekend," admits McCaw.

"They’re about to go home and won’t want to be travelling back here, so they will be pretty keen to get it right."

Coach Robbie Deans is in agreement. "The Sharks won’t be excited about their recent outcomes, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are a very good side. If you look at their circumstances, this is the last game before they head home and they won’t want to cross the ocean again, so this game is very important for them, we’re expecting the best from them."

The Crusaders, like the Sharks, boast a formidable pack and both sets of forwards have dominated the opposition this year. McCaw expects a huge battle upfront.

"The Sharks have a pretty big forward pack and that’s where they like to get on top and we need to be up for it." Deans explains further, "They are a side that is physical, they have a very good scrum. If you allow them to play their game, they’ll attack you where they choose.

"You have to meet them upfront. If you don’t, you’ll be left hanging in the wind. The Waratahs were able to get into the game, the Sharks are unlikely to be suppressed again I would suggest."

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.