Crusaders to hand Sharks defensive exam

Date published: March 23 2016

The Sharks will be looking to carry their solid defence into their Round Five meeting with a new-look Crusaders side in Durban on Saturday.

Both teams have looked solid in the opening rounds of this year's Super Rugby competition, and Betbright are giving the New Zealand-based side the slight edge in the latest betting odds.

The Sharks' impressive victory over the Stormers at Newlands two weeks ago and their draw against the Bulls at Loftus last weekend can be attributed to their strong defensive systems, but their ability to keep their counterparts out will be tested against the Crusaders who, stripped of stalwarts Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, have managed come out on top against the Blues and the Kings after suffering an opening round defeat to the Chiefs.

Sharks scrum-half Michael Claassens said that Todd Blackadder's side will pose a different threat to what they have encountered and dealt with in the past few weeks.

"It’ll definitely be a different challenge," Claassens told Netwerk24.

"I think they test your defence properly.

"South African derbies are more about carrying the ball and going into contact whereas they (the New Zealand teams) like to off-load, so you have to make sure you’re on top of your defensive game, because if you make one mistake they’re going to punish you."

Claassens also believes that the Crusaders' loss of many of their senior players won't make the outfit any less dangerous.

"They’ve always been one of the top or maybe even the top side in Super Rugby," said Claassens.

"They’ve lost a few players who have moved on but looking at them at the weekend… they’re very dangerous. They throw the ball around and offload, so it’s going to be a real test for us."