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Sharks captain throws out challenge to Crusaders

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018    Getty Images

Citing that scrum by the Blues last weekend which upended the Crusaders and conceded a penalty try, Botha said he didn't think the Crusaders had been 'physically tested as a pack' this season.

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With the Crusaders admitting earlier in the week that there had been a good deal of consternation about how that penalty try had happened it is fair to expect that lapse has been the subject of intense attention during the week's preparation.

What Botha may also not have considered is that eight of the games the Crusaders have played this year have been against fellow New Zealand sides, some of them memorable encounters, two of them losses to the Hurricanes and Highlanders, while there is the occasion when they allowed the Waratahs to get out to a 29-0 lead only to reel them back in to claim a 31-29 win.

Botha did acknowledge the enormity of the task facing his side but said the Sharks were prepared to give it a crack.

"We know they have a world-class front row and world-class locks, but personally I am of the opinion they haven't been physically tested as a pack this season, so that is going to be a big challenge for us.

"History is history, but you write your own path, and no team just rides on history. We are going there with the intention of winning so that we can finish off this season on a high," Botha said.
The travel factor didn't make the job any easier but it was up to the Sharks to adapt as quickly as possible in order to be able to go out onto AMI Stadium to do the basics well.

"This is not the road we wanted to go, and if we could turn back time there are a number of games we could have won that would have made it easier for ourselves. We know how strong the Crusaders are. They are good at keeping the ball through multiple phases but we will back our defence.

"The one thing they've done well this season is to keep the ball and they also have their small mini-plays with ball in hand.

"We need to put them under pressure and our defence is capable of doing that," he said.

Former Springboks and Bulls captain Victor Matfield said while the Sharks had played their best rugby against New Zealand teams this year, the strenuous travel to Christchurch would make their task tougher.

"I think it is going to be very difficult for the Sharks. They can really stand up to New Zealand sides but travelling over, we've seen in this competition, is very tough."

Fellow Springbok and former captain Jean de Villiers said the Crusaders had been outstanding but he hoped the inspiration of 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela could serve the side well in their quest.