The Sharks top the South African conference log, and also lie third in the overall standings. The Crusaders, in contrast, have won just three of their six games this season and languish in an unfamiliar ninth place on the log.
Despite the current log standings, Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said the the seven-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders were indeed a quality outfit.
“The Crusaders are a fantastic team, loaded with All Blacks,” said Gold.
“They have not won this competition as many times as they have by accident.”
The Crusaders were on the receiving end of a top-class Bulls performance in Pretoria last weekend with the Kiwi side going down 31-19.
The tourists would therefore be keen to notch up a win on their final match of their South African tour.
“They can never be taken lightly and we all know what a dangerous side they are when they hit their straps,” said Gold.
“It’s fantastic to play against a team of this quality. Every team wants to be measured against the best. We are confident with our group of players and are excited about the match-up this weekend.”
The Sharks would be seeking their fourth victory in a row as they look to strengthen their position near the top of the log going into the second half of the competition. Flyhalf Patrick Lambie, 24, would captain the Sharks taking over from Jean Deysel.
The Crusaders, however, would be without All Black stalwarts Richie McCaw and Dan Carter for the match. Flyhalf Carter was scheduled to return home for the birth of his second child, while flanker McCaw would warm the bench as part of a rotation policy for the 34-year-old.
Colin Slade would take over the number 10 jersey in Carter’s absence.
Crusaders assistant coach Aaron Mauger said his side knew they would lose Carter at some stage during the competition, and had planned accordingly.
“We knew this was happening right at the start of the season and had a plan for it,” said Mauger.
“The fortunate thing for us is we have got a lot of players who can play in multiple positions.
Mauger said the replacements would be more than capable in producing a top performance, and hinted McCaw could still make an appearance off the bench during the 80 minutes.
“We have got two quality number sevens, we know they can both do a job and Matty (Matt Todd) has been performing really well.
“Richie got a bit banged-up, too, last week and this is just an opportunity to lighten his load this week and he will definitely have an impact at some stage.” – ANA
Original source: Sharks take aim at struggling Crusaders