PREVIEW: Sharks v Crusaders

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Friday, March 25, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Crusaders have beaten the Sharks 16 times out of the last 20 occasions they have met, with three of the Sharks wins being in South Africa. However, the Sharks need only a win on Sunday to equal the franchise record of their longest unbeaten rugby in Investec Super Rugby.

While the Sharks, like all South African sides, like to make the most of their driving lineout maul when in close proximity to the goal-line, they will be contesting an area of the game in which the Crusaders have enjoyed a 93 percent success rate, the best in the 2016 season to date while they and the Chiefs have lost fewer than one lineout per match on average.

Matt Todd is back in full swing after early injury worries and will face an early test of his form when coming up against Marcell Coetzee, a player being touted as a potential Springbok this year. Coetzee has stepped into the role vacated by Bismarck du Plessis at the breakdown and has proven a dab hand at turning over ball. He doesn't shirk his tackling duties either.

There's something about teams scoring in the second half that the Sharks don't like. They are the only team in the competition to have kept their goal-line try-free in the second half. By comparison, the Crusaders have conceded six second-half tries. Both sides have scored seven second half tries but the Crusaders are up 6-3 in first half touchdowns.

While the Crusaders have said they want to tighten their discipline to avoid penalties, for two reasons, conceding points and allowing the Sharks to kick to corners to initiate driving mauls, the Sharks are concerned about their ball retention. Backs coach Michael Claassens said of their last game, "Our ball retention was terrible. If we do not keep the ball better against a New Zealand team of the calibre of the Crusaders we will get a hiding."


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 (captain).

Reserves: 16.Kyle Cooper, 17.Juan Schoeman, 18.Lourens Adriaanse, 19.Hyron Andrews, 20.Daniel du Preez, 21.Michael Claasens, 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 (captain), 7.Matt Todd, 6.Jordan Taufua, 5.Sam Whitelock, 4.Scott Barrett, 3.Owen Franks, 2.Codie Taylor, 1.Joe Moody.

Reserves: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Mike Alaalatoa, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Jimmy Tupou, 21.Tim Boys, 22.Mitchell Drummond, 23.Ben Volavola