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The Crusaders challenge

Written by Maria Delport (Letgo)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 4 Apr 2013 at 11:39
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

The Sharks will be welcoming the Crusaders to Kings Park on Friday night for the 8th time in the history of the competition and for the first time since 2009, as the conference system ensured that these teams did not meet last year. The last time these sides played against each other they made history by playing the first Super Rugby match on European soil, when they faced off at Twickenham. The Crusaders delivered an exhibition and came out victors in that game as they have in most games where these teams met before.

For the Sharks the up side is, that of the 3 games they have won against the Crusaders, all three were at Kings Park and they will be hoping to improve and make that record an even 50% this weekend.

John Plumtree and his men are all too familiar with the situation between the two teams, as Marcell Coetzee told reporters in a press conference yesterday; the team has been discussing their record against their upcoming opposition.

“When the coach asked how many times we’ve beaten the Crusaders, there weren’t a lot of guys in the room that could raise their hands.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great challenge for me and for the team. The Crusaders are well respected worldwide and just competing with them at Super Rugby level will be awesome.”

“Part of the Crusaders’ great strengths is their offload ability and their skill level is very high. We just have to adjust to it defensively, take the game to them and not allow them to get into the game that much, and just close it down where we can” said Coetzee.

The Sharks are a team that pride themselves in their defence and aside from the Brumbies game, have not let many tries slip through,. They will be hoping that their defence will hold up again this week.

Yesterday John Plumtree indicated that the Crusaders will be one of their toughest challengers in this area.

“Their skill level is very high, their backs and forwards handle the ball really well, they use the full width of the field, so our defensive play will definitely have to be very accurate over the weekend.”

“The breakdown will be a big area, it always is against Kiwi teams and we have to make sure that we’re competitive in that area.” said Plumtree

The Crusaders in their somewhat surprising win against the Stormers showed that aside from all these threats they are also threatening at lineout time and although Plumtree was aware of how dangerous it could be to struggle in this area, he feels his team will be ready.

“We are operating pretty well at lineout time, we’re probably operating at 83, 84% so that is quite high at lineout time, but we know that they have All Black locks.

“You can’t have a meltdown in an area like the lineout.

“The Crusaders keep the ball for long periods of time, so we want to ensure that we secure possession and certainly the lineout has been a big focus this week for us, it has been a big focus for us the whole season” , emphasised the coach.

The Crusaders are touring South Africa with players like Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Kieran Read absent from the squad, but any thought of complacency from the Sharks would have been wiped out by their performance against the Stormers last week. John Plumtree believes that the systems the Canterbury side has in place will always ensure that there is a player that can step up, when a top players is unavailable.

“They have the model at Canterbury in terms of developing their own. It has been one of their strengths, the All Blacks aren’t available through the ITM Cup and I guess that’s where their school starts from, in terms of developing players for Super Rugby. They have a good academy system in Canterbury as well, so there’s no surprise there, they always have players that can compete at this level.

“Obviously you can’t easily replace players like Kieran Reed, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, they are world class players, but certainly what we saw last week was that the young guys did more than a good job. You have to give Coach Todd Blackadder and the assistant coaches a lot of credit for how good that side was last week.” said Plumtree.


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