Super Rugby semi-finals: Sharks travel to Christchurch without prop Tendai Mtawarira
Last Updated: 26/07/14 10:44am
Sharks director of rugby Jake White insists history is meaningless as they travel to Christchurch for a Super Rugby semi-final showdown with the Crusaders.
The Durban-based franchise were the only South African conference side to qualify for the knockout stages and progressed to the final four after seeing off the Highlanders in a tense Kings Park thriller.
Two late penalties from Francois Steyn helped the Sharks over the line as a 31-27 win booked a semi-final date with the Crusaders in New Zealand.
"It’s knockout rugby and it’s a whole new game but it’s meaningless what’s happened before and how many All Blacks they have, and what the history books say."
The Sharks’ quest for a first Super Rugby title will go on without Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira after the man affectionately known as “beast” was left in Durban due to a neck injury.
Mtawarira’s absence leaves loosehead duties in the hands of Thomas du Toit and Dale Chadwick but, given their recent form, White has no fears.
“Thomas was outstanding at the weekend, we have him and Dale,” White told the club’s official website. “With Beast only 50-50, we’ve stuck with Thomas and Dale, and that’s not too bad considering how they performed.”
Marco Wentzel does make the plane after PRO12-bound Anton Bresler failed to recover from an injury sustained early on in the Highlanders clash.
Christchurch has long been a graveyard for South African teams, but after winning their first match in the city earlier this season, the Sharks are hopeful of repeat success at the usually impenetrable fortress of New Zealand rugby.
Sharks meet the Crusaders in Saturday's semi-final at AMI Stadium, two months after producing a memorable win at the venue that ended a run of 13 years without success for South African sides in the city.
“We know if we play well enough we can beat the Crusaders because we’ve done it before,” he added. “It’s knockout rugby and it’s a whole new game but it’s meaningless what’s happened before and how many All Blacks they have, and what the history books say.
“I’m a big believer that this group of players can beat anybody, and we’ve beaten both the Crusaders and Waratahs already this season.
“If we play well, we can get a win. The Highlanders flew from the other side of the world and nearly beat us, and they finished sixth and we were third. It’s going to happen at some stage that a team that finishes outside the top two will go on to win the competition.”
White also believes the hard-fought nature of their win against the Highlanders will stand them in good stead with sterner tests to come.
“That’s true knockout rugby,” said White. “I was proud of the boys because other teams might have lost from that position. I think we played some of our best rugby in those last 20 minutes.
“When we get a win like we did over the Stormers, and then fought back to beat the Highlanders, it’s a great way to take momentum into the semi-finals. It’s a great lesson in how tough the knockout stage is.”
Sharks touring squad: Adriaanse, Alberts, Chadwick, Coetzee, Cooper, Chavhanga, Deysel, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, Du Toit, Jordaan, Kankowski, Lambie, Lewies, Marais, McLeod, Ndungane, Mtembu, Mvovo, Oosthuizen, Pietersen, Reinach, Sithole, Steyn, Wentzel.