The Crusaders, boosted by the return to health of senior players Kieran Read and Ryan Crotty, are in championship mode – a time during which the eight-time title holders tend to thrive.

But if they need an extra reminder of what the Sharks may bring to their Super Rugby quarter-final in Christchurch on Saturday, they may want to turn their minds back to a match at the same venue in 2014 when the men from Durban beat them despite playing with 14 men for 64 minutes.

It was a 30-25 defeat which will live long in infamy in the upper half of the South Island and beyond, and was still being talked about in South Africa this week; the day flanker Jean Deysel was red-carded for a stamp to the face of Jordan Taufua – named in the No6 jersey for his team's match at AMI Stadium – and still won.

"Why can't the Sharks not beat the Crusaders in Christchurch? They have done it before, with 14 players. We all have to hope," former skipper Jean de Villiers was quoted as saying this week.


To make matters worse, Sharks lock Willem Alberts was sinbinned in the fourth quarter, meaning his side played with 13 players for 10 minutes and still the Crusaders faltered (although they soundly beat the Sharks in the semifinal rematch in Christchurch).

Different times, players and coaches of course, so the past probably doesn't have much relevance to this match, although Crusaders coach Scott Robertson is a student of history and could raise the defeat this week as he prepares his side for what could be the first of three sudden-death matches at home.

The recovery of No8 Read from a wrist injury suffered against the Blues last weekend, and that of second-five Ryan Crotty from a thumb problem, are big advantages. Read was relatively quiet against the Blues but his quality was obvious a week earlier against the Highlanders on his return from back surgery and Crotty, also unlucky with injuries, is an integral part of their midfield alongside the equally impressive Jack Goodhue.

Ryan Crotty (R) has been ruled fit for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty
Ryan Crotty (R) has been ruled fit for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty

"Kieran's been great, he's recovered quickly and since that X-ray there's been massive relief in the camp and especially for him after the amount of injuries he's had in the last year or so," Robertson said.

Robertson has been able to name his strongest squad apart from loosehead Joe Moody – still out with a knee and ankle injury – although he isn't far away if required next weekend. "Joe could have possibly played – he's that close – so that's positive news as well," Robertson said.

There is no room for fullback Israel Dagg, who played well against the Blues but who can't find a way past the returning David Havili. With outside back Manasa Mataele also returning, the Crusaders have a fearsome 23 with an All Black pack and Wyatt Crockett and Luke Romano on the bench.

"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."

Another issue this week which could increase motivation levels, especially among the pack, was the penalty try conceded in the second half to the Blues when the Crusaders scrum failed spectacularly – a rare sight.


"One scrum doesn't make a season – I think we've been pretty good apart from that one," was Robertson's response.

Skipper Sam Whitelock said: "We are in a good space but we went through our game last week and there was a 10 to 20-minute period that we weren't happy with."

Crusaders team to play the Sharks in Christchurch on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is:

David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock ©, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Tim Perry.

Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.