Hertford Highlander

Meeting the Northern Crusade – ‘Head On’ !

Written by Gwyn Pratley (Hertford Highlander)

Posted in :All Blacks, Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 23 Mar 2011 at 09:15
Tagged with : , , ,

Yesterday the final plane load of Crusaders touched down in London. The family men have joined the ‘Crusade’ after spending an extra day with their partners’ and children back in earthquake stricken Christchurch. The players actually circumnavigated the world in opposite directions with two planes going via Los Angeles and two others via Dubai. On Saturday under the main stand at Carisbrook, Todd Blackadder the Crusaders Head Coach eluded to the fact that hopefully they would all end up somewhere near the top of the world together on Tuesday. With the game being played on a Sunday afternoon in London there was not a feeling in the home team’s camp for the need to rush to the English capital. However Blackadder stressed that once there, the focus for the team would be on recovery and rest before a period of light preparation. It is a unique home match for the Crusaders who won’t want to drop it, with it quickly turning into such a showcase rugby event.

This weekend’s visit to Twickenham for the Sharks will provide a real yardstick to how they rate in this year’s Super Rugby competition. The Crusaders in the first five rounds have clearly illustrated in the New Zealand Conference that they are head and shoulders above all of the other franchises. Even though they lost in a late rally to a good 2011 Blues side at Eden Park in the opening round, they are clearly a more consistent and better side in every department. The coming week for the Crusaders will provide a colossal challenge in terms of preparation, but they will not lack motivation. In this week’s build up or wash up, it is important that the Sharks management don’t roll out the travel or fatigue excuses pre or post match against the Crusaders, as the Crusaders will be equally affected if not more.

Even though the Crusaders were beaten by the Blues in the opening round there does not however look to be a side in Australasia capable of beating them again this year. With the ‘Red ‘n Blacks’ able to attack on so many fronts there is not a Australasia side able to live with the Cantab’s and therefore they are able to develop their own pace and tempo to a game which combines their All Black laden pack and their potent back division on cue when required. They are seldom required to spend extra match-time establishing their dominance up front or sending extra players to break downs in order to secure their own ball or defend their own line.

So there is not a side in Australasia capable of living with the Crusaders, but there are three in the Republic more than capable of beating them and the Sharks are just one of them. If the Sharks can perform well against the Crusaders and be in the match come the final quarter, they will be well pleased with themselves and will know down the track, with a bit of luck, the bounce of the ball and maybe home ground advantage could even be on the right side of the ledger when the finals roll around in three months time.

So what does John Plumtree needs to consider when formulating his game plan to beat the ‘Northern Crusaders’ this weekend.

Who’s their ‘Key-Man’:- Kieran Read has been in ominous form this year and has more than adequately filled the captaincy boots of Richie McCaw during the first five rounds and looks an All Black captain in waiting. At Carisbrook in Round 5 when Sam Whitlock slipped him a little off load and he galloped 40 metres to score in the Rose Stand corner the writing was on the wall for the homeside. Read is the glue as well as the gloss in the Crusaders pack. With Read operating close to the top of his game, Sharks supporters eyes will turn to Ryan Kankowski, who needs to prove he is every inch as good a player as the New Zealand Rugby Football Union 2010 Player of the Year.

Get Carter ! :- Everyone says they will do it but few actually put words into actions. Carter’s ability to direct his side around the huge Twickenham track is a thing of beauty. So often he has been the difference between the All Blacks winning and losing at the venue, so it will be hard to image it being any different a level down ! Rattling him any way possible would be a bonus for the Durbanites, and if it’s achieved by the Sharks they would be best advised to bottle it, as it would fetch a pretty penny in the northern hemisphere.

Cut them off at source:- The Crusaders have as good a scrum and lineout as the Sharks and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be out to disrupt and compete on Sharks ball. The Sharks need to be ready to return the favour with interest. The Sharks locking duo of Steven Sykes and Alistair Hargreaves were disappointing last time out against the Chiefs and will need to be up to the challenge posed by two of New Zealand’s best scrum and lineout exponents.

Exploit the fact that it’s a ‘tight-heads’ game:- In Jannie du Plessis the Sharks have one of the world’s premier tight-head props. He needs to assert his dominance early with his opposite number tasting a little bit of Twickenham turf during the feeling out exchanges. Jannie must step up this weekend in order to quell the treat that Ben Franks and Wyatt Crockett pose.

Cast doubt in the minds of the new boys to London :- If we can target guys – I would be putting as much pressure on Matt Todd, Robbie Fruean and Sean Maitland as possible. It could be the case that the rest of the entire side has run out at Twickenham before. If you were naming a team of the first 5 Rounds these three names would be on the team sheet. However these three guys have never graced the Northern Hemisphere before – even though they will all be All Blacks of the future. They are bound to be nervous and jittery. Not allowing them to settle will be crucial if the Sharks are to get away to a good start.

Leadership:- In John Smit the Sharks have the best leader of a rugby team on the planet. It will be crucial he can play 80 minutes at Rugby HQ. Smit who reads the match and officials superbly well must have this revamped set of match officials in his pocket. The Crusaders do give away penalties and if they produce indiscretions such as Sam Whitlock’s professional foul last time out, Smit would be best advised to remind Walsh and his buddies that it’s not a new thing.

Be ready for the best bench in Super Rugby:- Last time out the Sader’s bench was what an impact bench is all about. Todd Blackadder has the luxury of being able to name a 22 man, match day squad that is all of equal value. Against the Highlander’s Wyatt Crockett, Chris Jack, Kahn Fotuali’i, Zac Guildford and Matt Berquist were all successfully injected in the second half. These five players all added real impetus with both Crockett and Fotuali’i getting their names in the try scoring column. Guildford and Fotuali’i have both had quiet periods of rehabilitation and could both quite easily get the nod to start against the Sharks on Sunday.

Value possession and back creativity: – Don’t make the mistake so many sides do against the Crusaders and give them back, often via kicking it, hard earned possession. Blackadder sent a direct message to his troops at the interval last Saturday that they were not holding onto the ball for long enough periods of time. Don’t expect Carter to kick unnecessarily this weekend. When given the opportunity the Crusaders will attack with plenty of width. It’s important when the Sharks break them down, keep them out, and get hold of possession, that they don’t immediately give the ball back via aimless kicking – these lads never need too many invitations. Jacques-Louis Potgieter has to have the decision making game of his life and his decisions will be the making or breaking of the Sharks on attack.

The Sharks camp is fortunate to have the coaching, support staff and experienced big match players in their core leadership group this weekend. They will however all more than earn their coin this week if they are to put their minds together and successfully repel this weekends ‘Northern Crusade’!


  • Go Sharks!! Think we can do this!

  • Comment 1, posted at 23.03.11 09:26:29 by Crock Reply
  • EXCELLENT article HH…..i reckon this match is equalling the world cup for spectator value….

  • Comment 2, posted at 23.03.11 09:30:03 by Just a Fan Reply
    Just a Fan
  • 4 planes to get a team of rugby players from NZ to London, You must be kidding.

    Nice article.

  • Comment 3, posted at 23.03.11 09:47:17 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • Are you a closet Sharks fan? You seem to be giving us a lot of tips and ideas lately 😉

  • Comment 4, posted at 23.03.11 09:52:53 by Jarson (AddicteD) Reply
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  • No chance at all .

  • Comment 5, posted at 23.03.11 09:54:07 by Speed7 Reply

  • Good that there is some rugby on a Sunday though .

  • Comment 6, posted at 23.03.11 09:54:48 by Speed7 Reply

  • @Salmonoid (Comment 3) : 1 to carry the players and 3 to carry their egos 😈

  • Comment 7, posted at 23.03.11 09:55:08 by Jarson (AddicteD) Reply
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  • Nice HH! Sommer hyped now! 😀

  • Comment 8, posted at 23.03.11 09:56:14 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • I hope Plum reads a bit of this…well written HH!

  • Comment 9, posted at 23.03.11 10:00:16 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • “Exploit the fact that it’s a ‘tight-heads’ game:- In Janine du Plessis”

    i love the “janine” du plessis comment. he is temperamental like a chick. 😆

  • Comment 10, posted at 23.03.11 10:02:26 by try time Reply

  • I wish both jjp and deysel were ready..would be great to use deysel to nullify sbw and fruean..
    Going to be a cracker hope the boys are ready cause the road from twickenham doesn’t look like a straight n narrow one…

  • Comment 11, posted at 23.03.11 10:05:18 by shaniboi Reply

  • I`m a bit worried about this new Janine prop. I`m guessing if she plays prop she won`t be in contention for FHM 100 sexiest? 😈

    Good Pointers though.

  • Comment 12, posted at 23.03.11 10:06:04 by Original Champion Reply
    Original Pierre
  • One question: Who is Janine du Plessis? Is it Jannie’s wife? Has he taught her all he knows so she can now play his position? 😉

    Don’t worry just joking.

  • Comment 13, posted at 23.03.11 10:07:20 by Butchie34 Reply
  • @Original Champion (Comment 12) : @try time (Comment 10) : @Butchie34 (Comment 13) : :mrgreen:
    Go Janine!!!

  • Comment 14, posted at 23.03.11 10:10:15 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • No no ,you have it wrong, THIS will be the biggest test yet for the SADERS .The Sharks biggest test will be fighting their own demons, the haunting memories of seasons past and how similar this season is turning out.

    Sharks can bring epic game to the table ,something no other team besides the saders have yet to unveil in this years comp.

    Are the forwards equal ,no ,the sharks are stronger ,more athletic and aggressive then the savy saders pack. Im affraid that the saders pack has been thrown in the arena with a rabid mike tyson. Our backline is by no means lame and probably one of the better defending units.

  • Comment 15, posted at 23.03.11 10:15:11 by Talent Reply
  • @try time (Comment 10) : @Original Champion (Comment 12) : @Butchie34 (Comment 13) : @Ice (Comment 14) :

    I’m blaming Rob ….. i blindly followed his lead from his Chiefs v Sharks Head to Head article this week. 😳

    Janine has officially been ditched. 😆

  • Comment 16, posted at 23.03.11 10:23:55 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 16) : Don’t worry about it too much.

    At least we know who you are talking about.

    The wrap of the weekend on Superrugby says that the Sharks lost to the Highlanders in the rain on Friday.

    Last I checked, we don’t even play the Highlanders this year 😉

  • Comment 17, posted at 23.03.11 10:25:58 by Butchie34 Reply
  • @Butchie34 (Comment 17) :


  • Comment 18, posted at 23.03.11 10:29:11 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • Damn HH, but you make it sound like a mountain to climb. I have faith in my Sharkies, though. I’m sure they will pull thru or at least put up a good fight… that is of course if the REAL Sharks show up and not that motley bunch from Hamilton last week 😉

  • Comment 19, posted at 23.03.11 10:44:35 by CapeShark Reply
    The Great Couch Shark
  • @CapeShark (Comment 19) : Ain’t no mountain High enough, ain’t no valley low enough….

  • Comment 20, posted at 23.03.11 10:50:39 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • What about Sonny Bill, HH? Who’s going to knock his block off? :mrgreen: Janine?

  • Comment 21, posted at 23.03.11 14:04:54 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • HH; this is an excellent article… It has test match written all over it this game does, and you are adding to the expectation. Enjoying your articles.

    The Sharks will be up for this one, I reckon, and as you say, this is a watershed moment for the team to gain the psychological advantage for the remainder of the competition.

  • Comment 22, posted at 23.03.11 19:16:29 by DarkDestroyer Reply


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