Why the odds are stacked heavily against the Sharks in New Zealand
The Sharks are the only South African team to have won a Super Rugby fixture in Christchurch in the past five years but no domestic side has won the tournament's play-offs in New Zealand.
That's the challenge that lies in front of the Sharks ahead of their Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Sharks have defeated three out of the four New Zealand teams they have faced this season‚ but they didn't play against the table-topping Crusaders.
While this is a knock-out game‚ it will also serve as an accurate assessment of how decent or undercooked the Sharks have been this season.
Consistency hasn't been a pillar the Sharks have built their season on this year but their captain Ruan Botha reckons they have an opportunity to create some history even though they'll have to pull off something South African teams have never done in the 22-year existence of Super Rugby.
“History is history. You write your own path.
"There's no team that's going to go out there and arrive on history and go out there to lose. We're in it to win as we want to finish our campaign on a high‚” Botha said.
“Travel isn't always easy but we have to adapt to it as quickly as possible. We've got good staff that take good care of us. It's a case of us going out there and doing the basics well.”
The Crusaders have kept their rugby pretty simple this season while scoring a truckload of tries.
The Sharks have defended reasonably well in this campaign but they will be subjected to an examination like no other.
What the Sharks have also done well this season is to out-muscle the New Zealand teams‚ but the Crusaders and their All Black laden-pack is a different kettle of fish.
They're also a multi-skilled side whose backs can tear errant defences apart.
Botha is aware of the Crusaders' all-round strengths but felt their pack hasn't been tested this season.
“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 said.
“They have a world class front row and world-class locks so it's going to be a difficult set-piece battle.
"They haven't been tested by a pack from my perspective so it's going to be a difficult challenge.”