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PREVIEW: Crusaders v Sharks

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Thursday, July 19, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Crusaders v Sharks, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, 7.35pm

Played: 23
Won: Crusaders 17, Sharks 5, Drawn 1
Last time: Sharks 14-19 Crusaders, Durban, March 26, 2016.

FORM

With only two losses, in rounds three and four to the Hurricanes (19-29a) and the Highlanders (17-25a), the Crusaders have managed 12 wins subsequently. Among the South African sides they have met they beat the Stormers (45-28h), the Bulls (33-14h) and the Lions (14-8a). They also beat the Jaguares (40-14a) as they compete in the South African Conference. The Sharks have only once managed back-to-back wins in the competition when beating the Stormers (24-17) and the Highlanders (38-12), both at home in Durban while against other New Zealand sides they beat the Blues (63-40a) and the Chiefs (28-24h). They also failed to beat any Australian sides. They drew (24-24h) with the Waratahs, lost to the Brumbies (17-24a) and the Rebels (14-46). They did beat the Australian conference side the Sunwolves from Japan (50-22h).



CLOSE TO FULL STRENGTH

Four All Blacks have returned to the Crusaders side for the game. Hooker Codie Taylor and prop Owen Franks joined Tim Perry in the front row while lock Scott Barrett is back from a week off to join captain Sam Whitelock in the middle row. David Havili reclaims his berth at fullback from Israel Dagg while Bryn Hall has been named at halfback. All Blacks captain and No.8 Kieran Read has recovered from the wrist blow he took against the Blues while second five-eighths Ryan Crotty has recovered from the thumb injury he suffered.

SHARKS' EXPECTATIONS HIGH

Former Springbok and national assistant coach Dick Muir, who is assistant coach of the Sharks, expects their ability against New Zealand sides to have them in the hunt in Christchurch. "They [the Crusaders] have the players but our expectations are pretty high as we get to the business end of the competition. Not too many people are giving us a chance so it's a great opportunity to prove them wrong. The Crusaders have made their presence felt in the competition. They've played a brand of rugby that has brought them a lot of success and we're respectful of that," he said. Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira will play his 150th Super Rugby game for the Sharks, a record for a single province in South Africa and only behind Adrian Strauss' 156 caps across all South African sides.

THE SCOOP

No South African team has ever won a finals game in New Zealand and Saturday's game will be the 13th time a South African time has tried. (Opta)

FAST FACT

The Crusaders have won 17 of their last 21 games against the Sharks, including each of the three times they have met in playoffs games. The Crusaders have also won 16 consecutive games against teams from outside New Zealand. The last loss was in 2015 to the Rebels.

TEAMS:

Crusaders: 1.Tim Perry, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Jordan Taufua, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Kieran Read, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Andrew Makalio, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Pete Samu, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Manasa Mataele.

Sharks: 1.Tendai Mtawarira, 2.Akker van der Merwe, 3.Thomas du Toit, 4.Tyler Paul, 5.Ruan Botha, 6.Philip van der Walt, 7.Jacques Vermeulen, 8.Daniel du Preez, 9.Louis Schreuder, 10.Robert du Preez, 11.Lwazi Mvovo, 12.Andre Esterhuizen, 13.Lukhanyo Am, 14.Kobus van Wyk, 15.Curwin Bosch.

Substitutes: 16.Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17.Juan Schoeman, 18.John-Hubert Meyer, 19.Hyron Andrews, 20.Wian Vosloo, 21.Cameron Wright, 22.Marius Louw, 23.Makazole Mapimpi.