Crusaders have the team to bite into the Sharks

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 09:53 22/07/2014
Israel Dagg
Photosport
TOTAL PACKAGE: Israel Dagg of the Crusaders celebrates with Andy Ellis after Nemani Nadolo scored a try against the Highlanders earlier this month.

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Jamie Joseph has warned the Sharks they face "a complete team" in the Crusaders and has predicted "a ripper" Super Rugby semifinal in Christchurch on Saturday night.

South African media were keen to get Joseph's predictions after the Sharks edged his Highlanders 37-31 in a thrilling quarter-final in Durban on Sunday.

Joseph has a good handle on the two semifinalists with the Crusaders thumping the Highlanders 34-8 in their final regular season match a week earlier.

"Look, what I can tell you is that the Sharks will be up against a complete team, a team that plays complete rugby and doesn't have many weaknesses," Joseph said.

"All I can say is that it will be a ripper."

It may have been a subtle dig at the one-dimensional approach the Sharks employ with much success.

Joseph conceded the Sharks forwards had too much grunt in Durban and paid special tribute to Springboks hooker Bismark du Plessis.

"He inspires the players around him, you can see that, and they gain confidence from having him present. He didn't play against us in the league match, but we saw how important he is to the Sharks in the scrums, and also in other aspects of forward play. He is an immense presence at the breakdowns," Joseph said.

The Sharks will be tempted to tinker with their backline against the Crusaders now that gifted playmaker Patrick Lambie got some brief game time under his belt late in the win against the Highlanders.

Coach Jake White hinted that Lambie, who missed four months with a torn bicep, could be moved up from the bench role to take over at No 10 against the Crusaders. And halfback Charl McLeod could also be in line to start after he similarly made an impact under pressure in Durban when he replaced starting No 9 Cobus Reinach.

"I thought in the last 20 minutes we played really well. It was some of our best rugby of the season during that period, and some of our best rugby in terms of linking our forwards and backs," White said.

"As a whole, the bench definitely helped us. There's no doubt when we get Charl and Pat, two senior players, onto the field that their experience tells under pressure."

"Frans Steyn said to me himself afterwards that when Lambie and Charl came on they brought a sense of calmness."

White felt his team had momentum on their side after beating the Stormers and Highlanders. They arrived in Christchurch last night looking to repeat their regular season upset of the Crusaders when they triumphed 30-25 in May despite having a player sent off earlier and being down to 13 for 10 minutes late in the match following an additional yellow card.

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