Star-stacked Crusaders to face Sharks

Star-stacked Crusaders to face Sharks

Scott Robertson doesn’t hide from the fact he’s drowning in talent after naming a fearsome Crusaders team for their Super Rugby play-offs clash with the Sharks.

International class will ooze from the starting XV, the reserve bench and even the grandstand in Christchurch on Saturday for what shapes as the most lop-sided of the quarter-finals.

The Durban-based Sharks, who snuck into eighth place on points differential ahead of the Melbourne Rebels, face a series of immense obstacles.

First is travel, so often a crippling impediment in the finals.

Then there’s a miserable 1-11 win-loss record in Christchurch and the form of the defending champions, who have won 12 straight games.

Coach Robertson has most of a swag of All Blacks at his disposal, with the exception of prop Joe Moody (knee).

An all-All Blacks tight five is nevertheless named, with hooker Codie Taylor and prop Owen Franks both returning to the team who hammered the Blues 54-17.

All Blacks skipper Kieran Read (wrist) and inside centre Ryan Crotty (thumb) both left the Blues game early but have been cleared to start.

Twelve of the starting team have played for New Zealand.

The bench features two more All Blacks, along with Wallabies flanker Pete Samu.

There’s no room in the 23 for accomplished All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg, who makes way for David Havili.

“We have got depth and you need it when you’re in championship mode,” Robertson said.

“You have to make sure the next person is ready and we’ve done a lot of work around that.”

In a quirk of the competition, the teams haven’t met for more than two years and it’s 2014 since they last clashed in Christchurch.

The Sharks snared a remarkable victory that year, overcoming an early red card to Springboks Jean Deysel to triumph 30-25.

CRUSADERS: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (capt), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Tim Perry. Res: Andrew Makalio, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.


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