Sharpe to make Super farewell in Christchurch
Veteran Western Force lock Nathan Sharpe is set to make his farewell Super Rugby appearance in tomorrow's clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Sharpe missed last week's loss to the Blues after his back locked up just hours before the match.
The 34-year-old had already announced he would retire at the end of the season, and was in serious doubt for the Crusaders match.
But Sharpe has recovered well and will take his place in the Force side in what will be his 162nd and final Super appearance.
"My back's fine, I got through today's session and I should be right for the game," Sharpe said.
The Crusaders have a healthy respect for Sharpe, but they're determined the veteran lock's Super Rugby send-off will be a losing one.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder knows the Force will be desperate to send Sharpe out a winner but says the home side can't afford to get caught up in the fanfare. A win over the second-bottom Force would guarantee the Crusaders a home quarter-final.
"He's the main go-to guy in the lineouts for them and in the go-forward as well," Blackadder said of Sharpe. "He's a big ball-carrier and with it being his last game I expect there will be a few emotions. They've got nothing to lose, which makes them even more dangerous."
Blackadder has made three changes to the starting line-up from the 28-21 win over competition leaders the Chiefs.
Lock Sam Whitelock and centre Robbie Fruean have been given a spell on the bench, with Tom Donnelly and Sean Maitland taking their places.
A rib injury to No.8 Kieran Read means skipper Richie McCaw will again move to the back of the scrum, with Matt Todd coming into the openside flanker spot.
The Force will unleash a new midfield combination with Rory Sidey replacing the injured Winston Stanley (dislocated shoulder) at inside centre and Pat Dellit promoted off the bench in favour of Will Tupou.
Force: Alfie Mafi, Nick Cummins, Patrick Dellit, Rory Sidey, Napolioni Nalaga, Ben Seymour, Brett Sheehan, Lachlan McCaffrey, Angus Cottrell, Richard Brown, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Toby Lynn, Salesi Manu, Nathan Charles, Tetera Faulkner. Reserves: Ben Whittaker, Ruan Smith, Pek Cowan, Ollie Atkins, Josh Holmes, Kyle Godwin, Will Tupou.