Sharks not daunted by possible Crusaders play-off clash
The Sharks‚ who still have an outside chance of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs‚ would have to travel to Christchurch to face the Crusaders in that event.
And they’re not daunted by the prospect.
There is still a lot of rugby to happen before the Sharks can think of flying to New Zealand though.
Firstly‚ the Melbourne Rebels have to lose to the Highlanders in Dunedin without securing a bonus point and then the Sharks have to beat the Jaguares in Durban in their final match.
And if all that falls into place‚ the Sharks will travel to New Zealand's south island for a clash that history shows‚ has never been won by a team travelling from South Africa.
South African teams have been involved in 12 play-off matches in New Zealand (quarters‚ semis and finals) and have lost every time.
The average score in favour of New Zealand teams is a staggering 37-14.
The Sharks themselves have been on the losing side in five of those matches with three of them being against the Crusaders.
In 2011 and 2016 the Sharks lost quarterfinals by 36-8 and 41-0 against the Crusaders.
The Sharks came closest with 36-32 semi-final defeat against the Crusaders‚ but that was two generations of players ago.
Despite the irrefutable facts‚ Sharks assistant coach Dick Muir said his side didn’t fear travelling to New Zealand for a play-off.
In 2018 the Sharks did win one of their tour matches there when they beat the Blues 63-40 in a bizarre game.
But the Blues are by some distance the worst team in the New Zealand conference.
“We have been good against New Zealand sides this year‚ so it won’t be too daunting for us although the history of the competition does suggest it is a massive undertaking‚” said Muir.
“I firmly believe we have a team that on a given day can beat any other team in the competition.”
The reason Muir puts forward for the Sharks’ ability to trouble New Zealand teams is the way they cope with line speed that the Kiwis bring.
“I do think we have handled the rush defence the best of all the sides‚ and we have also got a great off-load game‚” Muir said.
“We are really good at that. It negates their line-speed‚ and we have been really direct against them.”
But it will all be academic if they don’t get the first part of the equation done this weekend and beat the Jaguares.
And of course‚ rely on the Rebels losing.