Sharks coach Rob du Preez has highlighted the Crusaders’ phase play and ball retention as their greatest strengths ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final in Christchurch.
The Crusaders finished the regular season with a resounding 54-17 win over the Blues on Saturday, which saw them take their round-robin points total to 63, and their overall try-tally to a competition-high of 77.
The imperious reigning champs have gone from strength to strength as the season has progressed, and they will head into Saturday’s clash as overwhelming favourites against a Sharks side that snuck into the playoffs with a win over the Jaguares.
Speaking to the media after that clash, Du Preez said they knew exactly what to expect from a Crusaders side that thrives off relentless phase play.
‘They’re top of the log, and there’s no doubt that they are a great side. It’s a wonderful opportunity, but also a massive challenge for us. We’re going to go out there to beat them, otherwise, we should be staying at home.
‘The Crusaders keep the ball for multiple phases and they have some very good individual players. However, I think their biggest strength is that they keep the ball when they have it.’
The Crusaders have suffered a blow at the start of the week, with veteran prop Joe Moody having already been removed from selection contention due to a knee injury. However, the Saders are hopeful that All Blacks Kieran Read and Ryan Crotty will be available this week despite suffering injury scares last Saturday.
The New Zealand side were also without other Test players Codie Taylor, Owen Franks and Scott Barrett for that clash against the Blues, but they are all expected to start against the Sharks, who are set to arrive in Christchurch on Monday.
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