Sharks eye Christchurch repeat
Christchurch - Christchurch has long been a graveyard for South Africa's Super Rugby teams, but after winning their first match in the city earlier this season, the Sharks are hopeful of repeat success at the usually impenetrable fortress of New Zealand rugby.
The Sharks meet the Crusaders in Saturday's semi-final at AMI Stadium, two months after producing a memorable win at the venue that ended a run of 13 years without success for South African sides in the city.
The Crusaders were beaten 30-25 by a 14-man Sharks side in May, the first time since 2001 the seven-times Super Rugby champions had lost at home to a South African team.
"We have some great memories from that part of the world, a couple of months ago we got an incredible victory there," Sharks director of rugby Jake White said as the Sharks departed on a 36-hour journey from Durban to the South Island, seeking a place in the Super Rugby final on 2 August.
"We know if we play well enough we can beat the Crusaders because we've done it before.
"It's knockout rugby and it's a whole new game but it's meaningless what's happened before and how many All Blacks they have, and what the history books say.
"I'm a big believer that this group of players can beat anybody, and we've beaten both the Crusaders and Waratahs already this season."
The Crusaders finished second to the Waratahs in the regular season standings and both had a week off leading into the semi-finals.
The Waratahs host the Brumbies in an all-Australian clash in Sydney.
"The Crusaders have had a week off and will be a lot fresher," added White.
"But then we've got some momentum going, having got two big wins over the last two weekends.
"Defensively we can still improve, but it's now knockout rugby and we get another chance.
"And with knockout rugby, anything can happen on the day.
"If we play well, we can get a win.
"The Highlanders flew from the other side of the world and nearly beat us, and they finished sixth and we were third.
"It's going to happen at some stage that a team that finishes outside the top two will go on to win the competition."
Two late penalties from flyhalf Frans Steyn allowed the Sharks to edge the Highlanders 31-27 in Durban, putting them into the semi-finals for the eighth time.