Sharks captain Pat Lambie has to control the game for his side against the Crusaders at Kings Park on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Lambie and halfback partner Cobus Reinach were rested for last weekend's match against the Force in accordance with Saru's agreement on the management of Springbok players. Director of rugby Gary Gold must have thought that a fixture involving a less-fancied side that had lost five in a row was the ideal time to do it, but ultimately his team were lucky, and no doubt relieved, to come away with a 15-9 win.
Conrad Hoffmann and Frans Steyn were disappointing at scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively, with Hoffmann being substituted midway through the second half and Steyn shifting to his preferred position of inside centre. Steyn has since received a five-week ban for his tip-tackle on Aaron Cruden, after Sanzar successfully appealed the initial verdict that let him off the hook (André Esterhuizen will start at 12 on Saturday).
Lambie has the ability to control the game for the Sharks at flyhalf, and he will be required to do that against a Crusaders team that will be desperate to bounce back after last week's defeat at Loftus. The 24-year-old won't be up against Dan Carter, who has returned to New Zealand for the birth of his second child, with Colin Slade given the No 10 jersey. Slade, though, could pose a greater threat than Carter, who has not been at his best.
The Saders will feel they could have won at Loftus last Saturday had a few things gone their way – they should have scored just before half-time after making an interception and had a try ruled out in the second half because of a forward pass – and will fancy their chances against a Sharks team that has tried to played more of an attacking game this season without much success. In fact the Sharks' best result came in Bloemfontein when they kicked for territory and played the game in the right part of the field. Lambie can ensure they do that again on Saturday.
While Lambie vs Slade will be good to watch, it's the scrum battle that could decide the outcome of this match. Crusaders loosehead Wyatt Crockett was penalised a couple of times at Loftus for taking a step out and then scrumming in at an angle, which wouldn't have escaped the attention of the referee for Saturday's match in Durban, Marius van der Westhuizen.
Richie McCaw was also heavily penalised at Loftus, and it will be interesting to see whether the flanker again pushes the breakdown law boundaries when he comes off the bench at Kings Park.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Crusaders 15, Sharks 5, Draw 1
In Durban: Sharks 4, Crusaders 4
STATS AND FACTS
– The Crusaders accounted for the Sharks’ heaviest ever defeat in terms of losing margin (43) and points conceded (77); a 77-34 win during 2005.
– However in their maiden meeting in 1996, the Crusaders lost 58-26 and that remains the most points conceded in a match by the Canterbury-based side.
– The Sharks have averaged more kicks from hand per game than any other side so far (29.3) but are also the recipients of more kicks from hand per game (28.9) than any other team.
– The Crusaders rank first for scrum success rate (94%).
– The Sharks have scored the most tries in the 20 minutes that lead up to half-time (seven).
– The Crusaders have scored the most tries in the 20 minutes that follow half-time (eight).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Sharks||Pat Lambie (90)||Marcell Coetzee (4)||SP Marais (559)||Marcell Coetzee (68)|
|Crusaders||Dan Carter (60)||Andrew Ellis, Dan Carter, Jordan Taufua, Nemani Nadolo (2)||Israel Dagg (377)||Richie McCaw (54)|
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (c), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Waylon Murray.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 David Havili, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images