Big centres will change Crusaders’ game

2011-03-25 00:00

THE Sharks face any number of challenges at Twickenham on Sunday, but top of the list is negating the bruising Crusaders’ midfield pairing of Sonny Bill Williams and Robbie Fruean.

The formidable centre combination has added a new dimension to the Crusaders’ game, providing the team with momentum while Williams’ remarkable ability to offload in the tackle has created openings and space for his close support runners.

In the words of Sharks coach John Plumtree, Williams and Fruean “are really big boys”.

Indeed, Fruean is miffed that the records claim he is smaller than the 108 kg Williams.

“The guys that do the stats are telling lies about my weight,” he complained this week.

“I am actually 110 kg, so you can put that down in the paper,” said the IRB World U19 Player of the Year in 2007.

The pair are about the same weight as muscular Springbok number eight Pierre Spies and this all means that the Sharks midfield of Meyer Bosman (97kg) and Stefan Terblanche (95 kg), along with the backrow, will have their hands full on Sunday.

The Sharks flew out of Durban late yesterday and arrive in London today.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford said there were no late problems.

“We’ll have gym session in London when we get there tomorrow [today] and then our captain’s run on Saturday,” he said.

Bashford said the players were ready and excited about the challenge but now have to perform out in the middle.

“If we play as we did against the Chiefs last Friday, it will be a wasted trip. But if we play the way we can, and move them around and retain possession, we certainly have a chance.”

Bashford said that the Crusaders are a professional, hard-working and accurate team with big loose forwards and powerful midfield backs to get them over the gainline.

“It is a tough ask but we can worry them if we are on our game.”

Sharks captain John Smit said that he hopes there will be a large crowd at Twickenham.

“There are hundreds of thousands South African and New Zealand ex-pats in London and I hope we see more black and white [the Sharks’ colours] than the black and red of the Crusaders.”

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder expects to make only one change to the backline that started in last weekend’s 44-13 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin with Zac Guildford replacing Adam Whitelock on the left wing.

Sunday’s game kicks off at 5 pm with New Zealander Steve Walsh the referee.

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