A South African sports scientist believes the Sharks start 10 points behind the Crusaders in Saturday night's Super Rugby semifinal because of the travel factor.
Dr Ross Tucker was an exercise physiologist and high performance sports consultant working at the University of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute of South Africa.
He was asked by SARugbymag.co.za to try to quantify the hurdles in front of the Sharks who only arrived in Christchurch last night after beating the Highlanders to take on a Crusaders team who enjoyed a rest last weekend.
Tucker scoured the Super Rugby history and was left in no doubt that the Sharks were up against it, even though they managed to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch in the regular season.
"Looking over the results, simple home-ground advantage is worth about five points, while travel is worth about another five points,'' Tucker told SARugbymag.co.za.
''The consequence of that is if you are going to beat a team away from home after travelling, you need to be around 10 points better than them. It makes a big difference."
He felt even the referee was a factor in trying to win offshore.
"The reason it is so difficult to win overseas is because of the physiology of what it takes to travel. You lose sleep during an uncomfortable night on a plane and later because of jet lag.
"Added to that, you're away from home, the other team is familiar with the stadium and the conditions, and the referee is subconsciously on their side."
Adding to the Sharks difficulties is the fact that the Crusaders have never lost a Super Rugby playoff match at home. They are also highly motivated to avenge that May loss to the Sharks, which was undoubtedly their poorest performance of the season.
But the scientist also offered a glimmer of hope for the Sharks: "This is sport and there are no certainties."
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