‘Crusaders clash will bring out the best in us,’ says Alberts

2014-07-24 00:00

SHARKS loose forward Willem Alberts insists the team are not focusing too much on their Super Rugby semi-final opponents, the Crusaders, but are instead working on what they need to do in Saturday’s clash in Christchurch.

The quality of the squad possessed by the New Zealanders — which includes close to 20 All Blacks — has been well documented in recent days and they will also be boosted by the return of national captain Richie McCaw.

“I’m sure it will be a boost for them having some of their senior players back in the team and that will also just make the challenge bigger for us,” Alberts said. “It’s something we obviously will look forward to more in many ways, testing ourselves against the best.

“But I think we have to prepare based on our game and not focus too much on their team. We have to look at what we want to achieve, no matter who’s playing for them.”

Added to McCaw are the recent returns of fellow 2011 World Cup winners like skipper Kieran Read and Dan Carter, but Alberts felt playing against some of the best players in world rugby was something every player relished — the Sharks included.

“I think it definitely does [push you to the limit] and I’m relishing facing them,” he said. “When you play these big games, that’s the time when you have to be at your best and also bring out the best in yourself. It’s the time to show what you got.”

The Sharks themselves boast a formidable squad of their own — one that boasts almost 15 Springboks, amongst them 2007 World Cup winners like the Du Plessis brothers Jannie and captain Bismarck, as well as JP Pietersen and Francois Steyn.

However, they have been dealt a blow with an injury to first-choice lock Anton Bresler — a position that Alberts could fill come Saturday, just as he had done earlier in the season.

“Anton is a great player and integral part of this team, so losing him is a blow,” the Bok flanker admitted. “But I will play in any position for my team, especially in a semi-final, so it doesn’t matter where I play.”

The Sharks are currently preparing in the South Island city with the winners of their contest against the seven-time champions to face either the Waratahs or the Brumbies in the August 2 final.

The Durban side have already beaten both the Crusaders and Waratahs in 2014 — the two sides who ended second and first respectively after the regular season — to earn the right to host the last four meetings.

‘I believe Sharks can do it again’

ALBERTS (30) was part of the famous 14-man 30-25 triumph over Todd Blackadder’s men at the AMI Stadium in May. He says his side can take plenty of heart from the result and beating the Waratahs 32-10 at home back in March ahead of the weekend.

“We’ve beaten both teams above us in the last few months and that shows we can do it,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is we still have to do it again this weekend. So it’s not going to happen by itself, we have to pitch up and do what we trained to do.

“It’s going to be a hard game of rugby that lies ahead of us, but it can go either way. Semi-finals will always be tough no matter where you play or who you play. This one is against the Crusaders and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Alberts has downplayed suggestions that it will be the Sharks’ steely defence against the booming attack of the Crusaders, adding: “I think it will be a team effort against a team effort. I think they have a well-balanced side, but so do we as well. So it’s going to be a good game of rugby.”

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