Loftus took toll: Andrews
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Former Sharks favourite Mark Andrews fears the physical demands of their Super Rugby derby triumph against the Bulls last weekend will make the Crusaders a bridge just too far at Nelson on Saturday.
“If the (finals series playoff) game was being held in Durban, I think I’d be reasonably confident of putting my money on the Sharks,” the Springbok lock and World Cup-winning occasional No 8 told Sport 24.
“But the realist in me says the Crusaders will probably win in New Zealand.”
Andrews feels the combination of long-haul travel and the effects of the bruising 26-23 upset of the Bulls at Loftus will count against the Sharks managing another giant-killing so soon after the last one.
“By all accounts the game in Pretoria took a toll on the guys. There will be niggles and bumps from it, with some blokes still pretty sore. I’m worried about whether there’ll be enough gas left in the tank.
“And I know what the travel across time zones does to you, however you try to (fight it).
“I see no reason why they shouldn’t be up for it mentally; they’ll lift themselves on that front as they’re in the knockout stage a little unexpectedly and will adopt a go-for-broke kind of motivation.
“But physically it may just be asking too much.”
Andrews may well be right about the task, this late in a much-extended Super Rugby campaign in 2011, of playing juggernaut teams like the frequent-champion Bulls and Crusaders over successive weekends being massively demanding.
The Bulls, after all, could not quite match on Saturday the intensity they showed a week earlier in beating the SA conference winners, the Stormers, in their own backyard.
Still, Andrews says the Sharks will be at least competitive at Trafalgar Park if they can adhere to some “Test-match principles like jealous ball retention”.
He also likes the “uncertainty” seasoned Frenchman Freddie Michalak creates in opposition minds in the flyhalf channel.
“Look, Pat Lambie is a very talented young man but he was playing in the pocket (at No 10) a bit, trying to make things happen, and taking the forwards out of the game. That is changing a bit for the Sharks with Lambie back at fullback and Michalak calling the tune closer in.”