Sharks v Crusaders preview

 ABSA Stadium, Durban, 17.00 (15.00 GMT)


The Durban clash promises to be the most exciting of all in Round Five.


The Sharks are undefeated, and have traditionally been the slickest of the South African sides, whilst the Crusaders are the blockbusting royalty of Super Rugby.


This game will be notable for the ferocity at the collision and the breakdown, as both sides seek to impose their will up front.


These exchanges, however, will be short and sharp, and it will be up to the decision-making and nuance of ball-carriers as to who will make the most of the inevitable opportunities both sides will attain.


The intriguing battle lies in the midfield, where the sharp and venomous Rua Tipoki will come face to face with the muscle and heart of Brad Barritt. Whoever overcomes may give their team the edge, for, as we have said, decision-making on attack will be vital.


This Sharks side is full of hardened campaigners like Butch James and AJ Venter, and if these players come to the party, the likes of returning Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray and Percy Montgomery could finish it off for the Sharks.


Prediction: This match will be that moment in the season where the Sharks click into top gear. They are going to take it by fifteen points.


Teams:


Sharks: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Adrian Jacobs


Crusaders: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Rua Tipoki, 11 Caleb Ralph, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Johnny Leo’o, 6 Kieran Read, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn (c), 1 Ben Franks
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Isaac Ross, 19 Peter Nixon, 20 Kevin Senio, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Brent Ward


Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Dan Cheever (Australia), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Assessor: Arrie Schoonwinkel (South Africa), Tony Dunlop (New Zealand)

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