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Preview: Sharks v Crusaders

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Thursday, April 4, 2013    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

LAST TIME: Sharks 8 lost to Crusaders 36, Semi-final, 2011 at Trafalgar Park, Nelson

WALKING WOUNDED: Hooker Corey Flynn was a late scratching from the Crusaders team after suffering an eye injury and he will be replaced by Ben Funnell while Codie Taylor received a late call-up to fly to South Africa to take a bench place. Prop Owen Franks recovered from the rib injury which saw him leave the field against the Stormers early last weekend. Johnny McNicholl's broken leg has resulted in Adam Whitelock coming onto the right wing with Zac Guildford shifting to the left. Israel Dagg is back on the bench after his injury.

Sharks fullback Louis Ludik still has a shoulder problem so his place is taken by Frans Steyn. Flanker Marcell Coetzee has recovered from a knock to join the loose forward trio while Jannie du Plessis is back from parental leave. Wing Odwa Ndungane is also back to create a strong back three with Steyn and JP Pietersen.

FORM: Four wins out of five in South Africa make the Sharks one of the better performed sides in that conference and they are looking for more points before they begin their Australasian leg. The Sharks know they need to be on top of their game at the turnover and in counter-attacking but they are not happy they have managed to nail those requirements yet. However, they went into the bye weekend with a 64-7 thrashing of the Rebels and will be a confident unit on Saturday morning (NZT).

After their effort in containing, and overcoming, the Stormers lineout last weekend, the Crusaders have set a standard which should be a useful quality against the Sharks. Just as they had a good record at Newlands, the Crusaders have an ever better success rate against the Sharks, having lost to them only three times, and the last occasion was in 2007.

WE THINK: All the signs are good for a lively contest in this encounter. The home team are a strong, hard-running unit and will severely test the Crusaders' defences. But at the same time, the Crusaders are defensively strong as the Stormers found last week, while also able to launch solid attack of their own. The Crusaders' attacking policy could see some long spells for one team without the ball. If it is the Sharks who have to go without the win will be for the Crusaders. Crusaders by 6 points.