The Sharks, already struggling to cope after nine consecutive weeks of bruising battles, this week face a team they have only beaten twice in 12 years of Super Rugby – the defending champion Crusaders.
Rugby 365 reports that Sharks coach John Plumtree readily admits that his team is “feeling the effects” of the past two months – with a casualty list that has key players like Ruan Pienaar and Jean Deysel still on the sidelines.
Add to that the fact that they face a Crusaders team coming off a bye and it is obvious why the Sharks’ mentor is very apprehensive ahead of Saturday’s Round 10 encounter in Durban.
“They’re coming off a bye so they’ll be a bit fresher. We’re feeling the effects of a long and hard nine weeks of competition, but we know what to expect,” Plumtree said.
What is even more worrying is the fact that the Sharks have only beaten the Crusaders twice in their previous 12 encounters – those two wins coming from their last two encounters in Durban.
“We [the Sharks] haven’t beaten the Crusaders that much and the last time we played them in Durban [in 2007] we only won after the final hooter. So the history between the two sides suggest it will be another entertaining game,” Plumtree added.
The last three encounters between the two sides in Durban have gone down to the wire – the Sharks winning 27-26 in 2007 and 29-25 in 2004, while the Crusaders won 37-34 in 2002.
The Crusader have the most impressive record on tour in South Africa, having won 15 of their 28 matches since 1996.
Last year they completed an unbeaten tour to SA for the second time – beating the Stormers and the Bulls.
Not surprising then that the Sharks admitted they will have to do the “hard yards” this week, after their shocking 6-31 loss to the Cheetahs last week.
The men from Durban are still in first place on the standings, but even they admit that by any standards they did not produce a performance worthy of first place status.
“We’re hurting a lot after our performance against the Cheetahs, we were embarrassed by that performance, our standards are way higher than that,” Plumtree said.Tweet