Preview: Sharks v Crusaders

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Thursday, April 2, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Sunday 5 April at 2am (NZDT)
Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban

Played: 21, 1998-2014 (DNP 2012)
Sharks wins: 5
Crusaders wins: 15
Draws: 1

Sharks points: 494
Crusaders points: 656

Last match: Crusaders 38 Sharks 6, 26.07.14 in Christchurch (SF)

All teams for round 8:

Squad update: The Sharks rested a host of internationals last week as per their agreement with the national union, and the Crusaders will be met by a full strength home side.

The Bok trio of Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie have all been included in the Sharks team.

Lambie and Reinach are straight swaps for Frans Steyn and Conrad Hoffmann, with the first five-eighth taking over the captaincy.

Renaldo Bothma gets a deserved rest after starting all but one match so far this season, with Marcell Coetzee taking his place after gaining a week’s rest.

Crusaders Head Coach Todd Blackadder has made seven changes overall.

Props Wyatt Crockett and Joe Moody have again rotated so that Crockett starts at loosehead, while Nepo Laulala dons the number three jersey.

Matt Todd returns to the openside with Richie McCaw will providing loose forward cover from the bench.

Dan Carter is unavailable to play as he has returned to New Zealand awaiting the birth of his second child, which means Colin Slade moves back into first five – while Ryan Crotty shifts to second five, Kieron Fonotia goes to centre, while David Havili makes his first start for the Crusaders at right wing.

Form: The men from Durban didn’t exactly set the season alight initially, winning just one from their first four matches, with the Cheetahs, Bulls and Stormers lowering the Sharks colours.

After taking revenge against the Free Staters in Bloemfontein, victorious 27-10, the Sharks beat the Chiefs 12-11 and the Force 15-9 in Durban.

They will hope to make it a triple header against foreign opposition at King’s Park against a Crusaders team they conquered last year with 13 men in Christchuch.

Meanwhile the seven-time champions are in the midst of their ‘customary’ slow start, with a 3-3 record.

Their triumphs against the Highlanders, Lions and Cheetahs were as impressive as their defeats against the Rebels, Chiefs and Bulls were disappointing.

The Sharks, despite winning two of the last three head to head clashes, have a poor record against the Crusaders, with just four win in 19 fixtures.

Key players: The fact that Lambie will wear the skipper’s armband won’t count for too much during combat as the forwards will be looking to do the key work.

While Bismarck du Plessis is missing, the presence of Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and a hard core back row featuring Coetzee, Jean Deysel and Ryan Kankowski will be able to match the Crusaders forwards.

Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane ensure there is threats throughout the backline, as the tourists have been forced to reshuffle out wide.

A potent looking pack will call upon Owen Franks and Richie McCaw off the bench, while Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock continue to warm into the season – while the credentialed Matt Todd gets another start and will add more speed to the red and blacks ruck offensive.

Colin Slade takes over at ten, while the presence of Nemani Nadolo and Israel Dagg, both players are showcasing their wares with increasing frequency, gives the away outfit the ability to spook the Sharks defence.