SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW: Crusaders v Sharks

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019    Getty Images

Match Detail: Crusaders v Sharks, Christchurch Stadium, 7:35pm, May 3, 2019 

Played: 24
Won: Crusaders 18, Sharks 5, Draw 1
Last time: Crusaders won 40-10, July 21, 2018
Referee: Brendon Pickerill

The Crusaders are going from strength to strength and sit very comfortably at the top of the Investec Super Rugby table with eight wins, one loss and a draw. The Sharks go into Friday’s match in third place, behind the Crusaders and Hurricanes, but technically in second due to the Conference playoff provisions. The Sharks have had five wins and five losses so far this season and they’re coming off a good away win over the Waratahs in Sydney. The Sharks will be without Springboks prop Beast Mtawarira who returned home with an MCL injury to his left knee. Thomas du Toit will shift to loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen starts at tighthead. Lock Ruan Botha will start and Louis Schreuder returns to the backline, with the halfback wearing the captain’s armband. For the Crusaders, locks Mitchell Dunshea and Scott Barrett get the start, with Luke Romano named on the bench. Jordan Taufua will start alongside Matt Todd, while Sam Whitelock and Richie Mo’unga are both on All Blacks resting duties. Will Jordan gets the nod at fullback, Mitch Hunt at first five and Jack Goodhue in the number 12 jersey. 
The Crusaders are looking for their fifth win on the trot, however, they will be hoping to equal an even more remarkable record. They have won their last 25 games at home and one more victory would equal their best run of 26 straight. The last record was set between 2004 and 2007. 

Kieran Read will lead the Crusaders out on Friday night in what will be his 150th Super Rugby match. Read made his debut for the Crusaders in 2007 against the Blues in Auckland. He’s scored 130 points in his 149 matches (26 tries). Read first stood in as captain for the Crusaders while Richie McCaw was injured during their 2011 Super Rugby season. As if the Crusaders weren’t already dangerous enough, they’ll be determined to get another win for their inspirational leader. 

Watch out for Sevu Reece. He made a huge impact last week against the Lions, scoring two impressive tries and bumping off No 8 Warren Whiteley in the process of his first one. Reece is currently second for most clean breaks in the competition, with 20. The powerful Fijian winger has made headlines this week as a potential All Blacks bolter, so it will be interesting to see how he backs up last week’s performance against the Sharks. 

FAST FACT (Opta Sports)
The Crusaders have gained 494 metres and made 15 clean breaks per game in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other team. 

Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd (C), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (VC), 1 Joe Moody. Reserves: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Tim Bateman

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (C), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit. Reserves: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Marius Louw