Cape Town - Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers believes the Sharks can pull off an upset in their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Sharks sneaked into the playoffs after beating the Jaguares 20-10 in Durban last weekend to finish in eighth spot on the overall standings.
They will now face the defending champion Crusaders, who finished top of the standings after winning 14 of 16 matches.
Not many pundits are giving the Sharks a chance to upset the odds, but De Villiers says the Durbanites should draw inspiration from their win in Christchurch four years ago.
The Sharks shocked the Crusaders 30-25 in Christchurch in 2014, despite playing 64 minutes with 14 men after flank Jean Deysel was red-carded.
“Why can’t the Sharks not beat the Crusaders in Christchurch? They have done it before, with 14 players. We all have to hope,” De Villiers said at a Laureus rugby breakfast in Pretoria on Tuesday, as quoted by Netwerk24.
De Villiers acknowledged that the Lions - who host the Jaguares in Johannesburg - have a better chance of winning the tournament.
“Hopefully the Lions can beat the Jaguares and then they will play in a home semi-final against the winner of the quarter-final between the Waratahs and Highlanders, with will potentially be the easier semi-final.”
De Villiers said the Lions would have learnt from their final defeats in 2016 and 2017. "They must now show they have what it takes when it really matters. They have the players to do so."
Former Springbok lock Victor Matfield was also at the breakfast but was less hopeful of the Sharks’ chances.
“It’s tough to travel. The Sharks can try but I don’t think there’s much hope. Their chances are slim, but the Lions are in a position to win the tournament,” Matfield said.