Proudfoot: Sharks can do it
Cape Town - The Sharks are the only South African team that has been able to win an overseas play-off match in Super Rugby and that was in 1996 when they were still simply known as Natal.
Even so, Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot believes that an upset is possible when the Durban-based side play the Crusaders in Nelson on Saturday.
"With the momentum the Sharks have now, I think it will be difficult to beat them. They will have the same attitude than in the past weekend's game and that is that they have nothing to lose. It makes them a very dangerous side," said Proudfoot.
The Sharks were widely written off ahead of the game against the Bulls, but managed an excellent 26-23 win to clinch the sixth place on the overall log.
"They have their tails in the air and will be difficult to beat. It looks as if they're in the zone that they were in during last year's Currie Cup final when they played us off the park in the first 20 or 30 minutes," said Proudfoot.
"The Crusaders are a phenomenal side and it's only a team like them that will be able to handle the Sharks. I think it's going to be a 50-50 affair."
Proudfoot also does not believe that it's a forgone conclusion that home advantage will be decisive in the Blues' favour when they host the Waratahs in the other quarter-final.
"I fancy the Waratahs. It's a blow to lose Al Baxter and Tatafu Polota-Nau, but their physical approach has impressed me since the first game."
Natal beat the Reds 43-25 at Ballymore in Brisbane in 1996 before losing the final 21-45 to the Blues in Auckland.
In 1997, playing as the Natal Sharks, they lost their semi-final to the Auckland Blues at Eden Park 36-55, and in 1998 it was the Coastal Sharks that went down 32-36 to the Crusaders in a Christchurch semi-final.
The Sharks lost the 2001 final 6-36 to the Brumbies in Canberra, and in 2008 were beaten 28-13 by the Waratahs in a semi-final in Sydney.
The Bulls have lost three overseas playoffs - in 1996 as Northern Transvaal, and in 2005 and 2006. Their respective opponents were the Auckland Blues (11-48), Waratahs (13-23) and Crusaders (15-35).
In 2004 the Stormers lost 16-27 to the Crusaders in Christchurch, while the Cats (a combined team of the Lions and Cheetahs) took a 28-5 hiding from the Brumbies in a semi-final in Canberra in 2000.
Meanwhile, Proudfoot has described the injury blow to Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen ahead of next weekend's semi-final as "tragic".
"I really thought it was his time. He started carrying the ball more and was becoming really dynamic at it. It's a big blow for him personally and for us.
"Nick Koster will now get his chance."
The Stormers are not yet sure which loose forward will be added to their squad for next week's semi-final.
Siya Kolisi has been called up from the SA under-20 squad in Italy, but the Stormers will only make a final call when they know who their semi-final opponent will be.