DURBAN - The days of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter may be long gone in Christchurch, but it is easy to forget the other talented All Blacks veterans who permeate the current Crusaders crop. When the Sharks run onto the pitch on Saturday (9.35am SA time) they will be trying to make history as the first SA side to knock out a NZ team on enemy soil - and it will be a job for the youngsters.
Curwin Bosch v Israel Dagg
Dagg, once the mainstay of the All Blacks at the back, has had a spate of injuries that kept him off the pitch. But what Dagg has picked up in his time away from the game is a level of maturity and insight for the art of fullback play. The experienced No 15 will test his opposite number’s ability to field the high ball in tricky situations, and his defensive efforts in one-on-one encounters.
Ryan Crotty v André Esterhuizen
Esterhuizen may be playing his best rugby, but he will be tested by the guile and professionalism of one of the most underrated All Blacks playing today. Crotty is as dependable as they come and has a bit of a golden touch. He will be a thorn in the side of Esterhuizen, who is still ironing out his youthful boisterousness.
Kieran Read v Dan du Preez
Read is another who had injury concerns and he may not make this game, but if he does, Du Preez will be up against a connoisseur of the game. Du Preez’s game has also come along nicely and he will have a few more eyes on him for the Bok No 8 shirt with Duane Vermeulen out of the way. But in this match he will need to be smart in his decision-making, especially when marking Read from the base of the scrum. The All Blacks captain, while physical as they come, will not be suckered into a brawl with the barnstorming No 8.
Sam Whitelock v Ruan Botha
Botha has matured with the captain’s armband, but he too is young and has the extra pressure of leading a group of youngsters, whereas Whitelock has been around. He’s an integral part of the Crusaders leadership and it is not only his imposing frame that will be of concern to Botha, but also his presence in the tight-loose.
Wyatt Crockett v Thomas du Toit
They say in scrumming it is about time in the saddle and that is exactly what they said about Du Toit’s move to tighthead - he just needs more time. But for the Crusaders, they have a prop who has played over 200 games for his club alone. Crockett is a fine-tuned diesel engine if ever there was one, and his clash with Du Toit could be worth the admission alone. Both men are tall and powerful but the difference is age and experience, which probably gives Crockett the edge.