This weekend it will be the Cell C Sharks biggest test this year when they face the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Crusaders have been again the team that have shown that they are the one to beat this year. They have been clinical in all but one match and at this moment nobody are coming close.
The Sharks always had and still have the team sheet to challenge any team but unfortunately for them, team sheets does not win matches.
Last week was not great but it was a step in the right directions against the Waratahs, the key is now to follow it up with an improve performance against the champions.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made some changes to his team to face the Sharks.
Several All Blacks is not playing according to the All Black rest protocol.
In the second row Mitch Dunshea and Scott Barrett will start the match with Matt Todd leading the team.
Richie Mo’unga and Ryan Crotty are rested which means Mitch Hunt will start at 10 while Jack Goodhue, usually a No 13, will start at No 12.
Hall returns to the starting nine jumper and exciting young Will Jordan will get a start at fullback.
Kieran Read will run out for his 150th Super Rugby match this weekend.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez has kept more or less the same team as last week with Curwin Bosch getting another run at ten.
Thomas du Toit will move to loosehead in place of the injured Mtawarira with Coenie Oosthuizen at tighthead.
In the second row Ruan Botha will start with Hyron Andrews moving to the bench.
In the backs there is only one change with Louis Schreuder returning to the number nine jumper.
Without a pack that can dominate or atleast compete with the Crusaders will make this a long day for the Sharks in Christchurch.
Defence was good last week for the Sharks but it will also need a step up against this week.
Not many will give the Sharks a chance to get a win but if they can play to their potensial, they may just surprise us all.
Some Interesting Facts (OPTA)
- The Crusaders have won nine of their last 11 Super Rugby fixtures against the Sharks, including each of the last four in a row.
- Crusaders have won their last 25 home games, one more victory would equal their best ever run at home in Super Rugby which they set between March 2004 and April 2007.
- The Sharks have won in New Zealand on 21 occasions, no other side from outside New Zealand has travelled there and won as often.
- The Crusaders have gained 494m and made 15 clean breaks per game in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other team.
- Daniel du Preez (Sharks) has carried the ball 116 times in Super Rugby 2019, the second most of any player and 34 more than Crusaders’ best David Havili (82).
Prediction: All points to a Saders win with atleast 15 points, but Sharks can cause an upset.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 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. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Curwin Bosch, 9. Louis Schreuder (captain), 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
Replacements: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