The Sharks will have to overcome travel fatigue, weather and an impressive Crusaders' home play-offs record when the two teams clash on Saturday.
In the history of Super Rugby, the Crusaders have never lost a home final or semi-final. They have won 16 of their 21 play-off matches for an amazing winning percentage of 76 per cent, with all five of their defeats at this stage of the season coming away from home.
On the other end of the scale, the three-time Super Rugby runners-up will have to win only their second play-off match away from Durban. Since 1996 the Sharks have played in nine play-offs, winning three.
The South African franchise have faced the Crusaders once before in a semi-final, way back in 1998, and lost 36-32 in Christchurch.
Because of a devastating earthquake that hit the region earlier this year, the Crusaders have had to move all their home games from AMI Stadium in Christchurch to venues across the South Island as well as abroad to Twickenham - the venue where these two teams last met.
The Super Rugby clash in London was the first of its kind to be held outside the Southern Hemisphere, with the Crusaders getting the better of the Sharks in a highly entertaining match that saw the New Zealanders outscore John Plumtree's side five tries to four.
Nelson has brought mixed results for the Crusaders, having beaten the Waratahs (33-18) and Brumbies (52-10) but they lost to the Highlanders - which shows the men in red and black can be beaten in home games, even though it doesn't happen all that often.
Since 2001, the Crusaders have only lost eight times at home. In the history of the competition, they've lost 15 out of 108 home games and drawn four - a stat that will have Sharks fans quaking in their boots.
It hasn't been an easy journey for either teams getting to the 2011 play-offs, but the Crusaders have by far been the most impressive.
From 16 matches the Crusaders lost only four without playing a single match at home, while the Sharks lost five. The hosts scored the most points in the league stage (436) and were second only to the Waratahs in terms of tries scored (46).
Last week the Crusaders won the New Zealand Conference with a 16-9 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington, and the Sharks eliminated the defending champion Bulls 26-23 in Pretoria to make the finals.
Leading into the Round 18 knock-out clash against the Bulls, the talk coming from the Sharks camp was all about the need for accuracy, intensity and commitment. Much of the same will be required against a Crusaders team that are poised for an eighth Super Rugby title.
Changes to the Sharks side that beat the Bulls last week have been kept to a minimum, with just one personnel swap to the starting XV, where Willem Alberts replaces Ryan Kankowski at number eight.
The Crusaders have been strengthened by the return of key backs Sonny Bill Williams and Sean Maitland from injury as well as scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i and coach Todd Blackadder warned his side was primed for finals rugby.
"The guys want to do it for the people at home who are really hurting," said Blackadder as the New Zealand government announced thousands of people in quake-crippled Christchurch would lose their damaged houses.
"Every obstacle that seems to get thrown in our way, the guys overcome it, and manage to put good performances together.
"If anything we feel like we're a little bit underdone... the guys are fit and fresh and really determined. If we get everything right we'll be dangerous."
Ones to watch:
For Crusaders: Whilst Sonny Bill Williams has proved himself this year as arguably the most influential player in Super Rugby, Crusaders flank Matt Todd has been the real find of 2011. Filling the void left by the injured Richie McCaw, Todd has exceeded all expectations - so much so, that an All Blacks call-up would not go unwarranted. His effective work on the ground and resilience on defence has made him a thorn in the opposition's backside.
For Sharks: Big Willem Alberts returns to the Sharks' starting line-up after riding pine last weekend against the Bulls. His blockbusting running and physicality on both attack and defence makes him a vital component of the Sharks' attack.
Super head-to-head: The front row. The clash up front sees All Blacks trio Owen Franks, Corey Flynn and Wyatt Crockett locking horns with Springboks Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira. The visitors' pack hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders, while conversely the Crusaders' heavies have been enjoying the form of their lives. However, the Sharks were a different kettle of fish in Pretoria last week, and physically dominated a Springbok-laden Bulls pack. And with the Tri-Nations and a World Cup on the horizon, the Sharks' all-Springbok front row has a point to prove against their much-fancied All Blacks counterparts.
Prediction: Only a complete 80 minute performance from the Sharks is going to be good enough against a side who know how to win knock-out clashes. We're expecting a close tussle, but as the match wears on, so will the Sharks. Crusaders by six!
Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Ryan Crotty/Brent Ward.
Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Louis Ludik.
Date: Saturday, June 25
Venue: Trafalgar Park , Nelson
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)