Super Rugby: Sharks determined to test Crusaders pack

Sharks captain Ruan Botha has thrown down the gauntlet ahead of their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The team from Natal boast a better record against Kiwi opposition than most, with wins over the Blues, Chiefs and Highlanders this season, but head into Saturday's encounter as overwhelming underdogs.

Botha made no secret of where the Sharks will target the Crusaders and believes they can win the battle upfront.

"We know they have a world-class front row and world-class locks, but personally, I am of the opinion they haven’t been physically tested as a pack this season, so that is going to be a big challenge for us, he said.

"History is history, but you write your own path, and no team just rides on history. We are going there with the intention of winning, so that we can finish off this season on a high."

The Crusaders will be without injured prop, Joe Moody, but Kieran Reid's availability softens the blow in a pack that boasts seven All Blacks.

Super Rugby: Sharks determined to test Crusaders pack

Botha conceded they would rather have avoided the defending champions so early on in the playoffs, but was confident they could rise to the challenge.

"This is not the road we wanted to go, and if we could turn back time, there are a number of games we could have won that would have made it easier for ourselves," he said.

"We know how strong the Crusaders are. They are good at keeping the ball through multiple phases, but we will back our defence.

"The one thing they’ve done well this season is to keep the ball and they also have their small mini-plays with ball in hand. We need to put them under pressure and our defence is capable of doing that," Botha added.

Former All Black Jeff Wilson has given the Sharks almost no chance of pulling off the upset.
"It's probably going to take a near-perfect performance," Wilson told RadioLIVE.

"A team will have to take every single opportunity afforded to them and the Crusaders have a night when they are not quite 100 percent at the top of their game, but that is something we have seen rarely in the last two years.

"They have built their squad beautifully with great recruiting and now they have players coming back at exactly the right time."


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