Crusaders will test Sharks defence

    2016-03-23 09:04

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - It has taken just four rounds of Super Rugby for the Sharks to show that their defensive ability is going to be one of their strongest attributes this season. 

    It won them the game against the Stormers in Cape Town two weekends ago, and it kept them alive against the Bulls at Loftus this past weekend in the first half.

    But this weekend a different test awaits, and it comes in the form of a new-look Crusaders side. 

    Having lost household names like Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Luke Whitelock, the Crusaders are experiencing somewhat of a metamorphosis in Super Rugby this season. 

    Still, they have bounced back from an opening weekend defeat at home to the Chiefs with wins against the Blues and the Kings and arrive in Durban this week knowing that a win against the only undefeated side left in the competition would make a big statement.

    "It’ll definitely be a different challenge. I think they test your defence properly," said veteran Sharks scrumhalf Michael Claassens, who got his first start of the season in the 16-16 draw with the Bulls,

    "South African derbies are more about carrying the ball and going into contact whereas they (the New Zealand teams) like to off-load, so you have to make sure you’re on top of your defensive game, because if you make one mistake they’re going to punish you."

    Claassens does not expect the mini-exodus of players to impact too much on the threats posed by the Crusaders. 

    "They’ve always been one of the top or maybe even the top side in Super Rugby," the 33-year-old said.

    "They’ve lost a few players who have moved on but looking at them at the weekend … they’re very dangerous.

    "They throw the ball around; off-load so it’s going to be a real test for us."

    On his own role ahead of Saturday, Claassens hinted that he expected Cobus Reinach to be given the nod ahead of him. 

    "It was a first start against the Bulls, I felt good and sharp," he said.

    "We’re fortunate at the Sharks to have a scrumhalf like Cobus Reinach so I’m always happy to get the chance to play."

    The sides clash on Saturday and kick-off is at 17:15.

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    Saturday, 17 February 2018
    • Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airlines Park 17:15
    Friday, 23 February 2018
    • Highlanders v Blues, 08:35
    • Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park 10:45
    Saturday, 24 February 2018
    • Sunwolves v Brumbies, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Chiefs, 08:35
    • Waratahs v Stormers, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Lions v Jaguares, Emirates Airlines Park 15:05
    • Bulls v Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld 17:15


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