Sharks v Crusaders in London?
Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Durban - The Sharks will decide after their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday whether they will agree to a Crusaders request to play their final tour match in London.
The Sharks have confirmed that Crusaders have asked for their game, originally scheduled for the AMI Stadium in Christchurch for Friday, March 25, to be played at Twickenham, where the cash strapped Crusaders believe they can draw a massive crowd that would make up for some of the money they are losing by playing most of their Super Rugby matches at smaller venues such as Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
The Crusaders home matches in the competition were transferred away from Christchurch after the stadium was deemed unsafe following the devastating earth-quake that hit the city on February 22. The Sharks game comes before their bye week, which is why they are looking to have the match played off-shore then as it would minimise impact on the rest of their programme.
The Crusaders are hoping that New Zealand and South African expats will pack out Twickenham in what would be the first Super Rugby match to be played out of the countries represented by the three SANZAR partners - South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Sharks chief executive Brian van Zyl has told a Durban newspaper, The Mercury, that the team has been weighing up the invitation for a couple of days and that a decision would be made after the Rebels game.
“It is a decision that will be based on rugby considerations,” said Van Zyl.
In other words, the Sharks management and players are weighing up how a change of venue would impact on their campaign. The downside for the Sharks would obviously be the more than 24 hour flight that they would have to undertake from their previous match against the Chiefs in Hamilton to a completely different hemisphere and part of the world. However the Crusaders would have to undertake the same flight and would have to do it a day later as their match for the weekend before the Sharks clash is on a Saturday, whereas the Sharks play on a Friday.
So both teams would probably find themselves jetlagged during the week in London, but an advantage for the Sharks would be that they would face just an 11 hour flight from London to Durban instead of the arduous Christchurch to Durban journey that they would have to undertake before the first match after their return against the Stormers.
According to Van Zyl, the two unions are in negotiations with the various stake-holders, but - and note that we are still more than three weeks away from April 1 - it does seem a real possibility that the Sharks could be finishing off their tour of Australia and New Zealand in England.