Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree is confident the recent break from Super Rugby action will have little bearing on how they adapt when facing up to seven-time champions the Crusaders in Durban on Friday.
The coastal franchise won their last match against the Rebels two weeks ago in record fashion when they thumped the Australians 64-7, with that victory enabling them to sit top of the South African conference and third overall.
“I’ve been pretty happy with the way the players have come back, the training sessions have been good and we’re looking forward to the game,” Plumtree said.
“The bye week gave them a bit of a break from the intensity of the competition, mentally a big switch off, and now it’s a case of mentally switching right back on."
The New Zealanders are the most successful club in the history of the competition, but are only just starting to hit full stride after losing their opening two matches of the season.
The 'Saders are without several of their star All Blacks for the tour of South Africa, including Dan Carter and Kieran Read, while Israel Dagg is only on the bench after missing the Crusaders’ 19-14 win over the Stormers last week.
“They showed what a fine outfit they are with so many of their players out and they did so well in Cape Town,” Plumtree said.
“You have to give (coach) Todd Blackadder a lot of credit for how well they’re playing.
“Their skill levels are really high, backs and forwards handle the ball well, our defensive plan is going to have to be very accurate."
The big reason for their victory at Newlands was winning the line-out battle and it is an area that the Sharks are wary of ahead of the clash.
“You can't have a meltdown in an area like the lineouts, it takes good, hard work to get into an attacking situation, and then to lose ball puts you under immense pressure,” Plumtree added.
“And you don't want to be doing that against a team like the Crusaders who are able to hold on to the ball for long periods of time."
“The lineout has been a big focus for us, not only for this match but throughout the competition."
The Sharks’ squad announced on Wednesday sported three changes to the one that trounced the Rebels, most notably the return of Frans Steyn in the number 15 jersey after he was dropped against the Australians following some below-par showings at centre in the opening few weeks.
15. Francois Steyn, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul
Jordaan, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9.
Cobus Reinach, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6.
Jacques Botes, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3.
Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Ryan
Kankowski, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Riaan Viljoen, 22. Louis Ludik / S’Bura
15 Tom Marshall, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11
Zac Guildford, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7
Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock (captain), 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke
Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Telusa Veainu, 22 Israel Dagg