The Crusaders arrive on African shores for the first time in 2016 to face the battle-hardened Sharks in Round Five of Super Rugby.
“They will be kick-fests,” said Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder earlier in the week on the back-to-back fixtures against the Sharks and Lions.
“They will kick to the corner and drive the hell out of you.”
Well, there is some truth to that. The Sharks have averaged 23.5 kicks from hand per game, ranking them fifth in that category. However, Sharks coach Gary Gold might want to re-think the kicking strategy, as the visitors lead the lineout stats, winning 93 per cent of their own ball.
That said, kicking and playing in the right part of the field has been part of the Durban outfit’s success, as they are often able to win turnovers.
The indomitable Marcell Coetzee has helped his side notch up a tournament-leading 39 steals, proving they are threat anywhere on the park.
While the Sharks have been superb on defence – they are the only side yet to concede a second half try – they will arguably face their toughest test against a crafty Crusaders backline that has amassed 45 clean breaks in their three games.
Interestingly, seven of the Crusaders 13 tries in the competition so far have come in the second half, with a lot of the damage coming in their thrashing of the Kings last week when Nemani Nadolo got the engine fired up.
Either way, it is shaping up to be a titanic battle at the Shark Tank, where home fans will be hoping to eclipse the memory of…
2015: Crusaders won 52-10 in Durban
2014: Crusaders won 38-6 in Christchurch
2014: Sharks won 30-25 in Christchurch
2013: Sharks won 21-17 in Durban
2011: Crusaders won 36-8 in Nelson
2011: Crusaders won 44-28 in London
2010: Crusaders won 35-6 in Christchurch
2009: Crusaders won 13-10 in Durban
Sharks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira (c)
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 Odwa Ndungane
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jimmy Tupou, 21 Tim Boys, 22 Mitchell Drummond, 23 Ben Volavola
Date: Saturday, March 26
Venue: Kings Park Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Johan Greeff