Nelson - The Sharks are presently in New Zealand and face minimal disruption to the squad for selection purposes as they prepare for Saturday's Vodacom Super Rugby qualifier against the seven-time champions, the Crusaders.
According to Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick
, all the talk this week has been on certain uncontrollables - the travel factor and weather - but the Sharks know that as long as they control what they can, this game represents the fantastic opportunity to claim a place in next week's semi-finals, dependant on a similar effort to last week's against the Bulls.
Coach John Plumtree admits that it's a case of "Having to play to the conditions… It's great going to New Zealand in February, March when the weather's the best, but at this time of the year, the weather is not so good and apparently the weather is not great for this weekend, but you expect that."
For the Sharks, not only a complete, 80 minute performance is going to be good enough against a side like the Crusaders who know how to win important games, but one based on a thorough team effort.
Lessons have been learned from their pool match when the Crusaders won 44-28, primarily that the Crusaders' play-makers will need to be contained if there is to be any chance of avoiding a rerun. "A big part of what we got wrong at Twickenham was not stopping Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams and Robbie Fruean, with their ability to shift ball into space either by hand or by kicking, which is key to their game.
"The foundation of their game is built around their scrum, they're a good scrummaging side so we need to scrum really well against them and if we can look after them defensively and look after their scrum, then anything can happen."
The Sharks front row of Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira will have their work cut out for them contesting scrums against the opposition.
"They have a very short front row and they scrum low and while we have a pretty good front row ourselves, we will need to scrum a lot better than we did against the Bulls, that's a big area for us.
"We have the forward pack that can compete and that's going to be key if it's wet and cold there. Frederic Michalak can control the game and we have Pat's kicking game at the back as well, so as long as we defend really well and our setpiece functions and we make sure that territory is in our favour, you never know."
Changes to the Sharks side that beat the Bulls last week have been kept to a minimum, with just one personnel swap to the starting XV, where Willem Alberts replaces Ryan Kankowski at eighthman.
There are two changes on the bench, Eugene van Staden and Jacques Botes coming in for Wiehahn Herbst and Marcell Coetzee respectively. Teams:
15 Tom Marshall, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Substitutes: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Ryan Crotty/Brent WardSharks:
15. Patrick Lambie, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Stefan Terblanche (captain), 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Frederic Michalak, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Willem Alberts, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Gerhard Mostert, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. John Smit, 17. Eugene van Staden, 18. Ross Skeate, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Adrian Jacobs, 22. Louis Ludik