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SA teams pin play off hopes on wins against Bogey teams

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The two teams that South Africa’s Super 14 semifinal hopes are pinned will have to play their bogey teams this weekend whilst contending with injuries to key players. 

The Sharks, still unsure if their captain Johann Muller will take the field against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday, are also without Bismarck Olivier, Brad Barritt, Steven Sykes and Frederik Michalack.


They have beaten the Crusaders only twice in 11 outings – both times in Durban.


The Stormers, who play the Brumbies at Newlands on Saturday, have been on the winning side only once against the Australian franchise – in 1998 in their first meeting.


Both the South African sides lost some footing on the log last weekend, and for the Sharks, in particular, a win against the Crusaders is vital to make their target of a home semifinal.


“We have let ourselves down, and now we must fix the damage,” Sharks coach Dick Muir told Independent Newspapers this week.


“We must get on that plane with a win if we are to achieve our pre-season goal of having the luxury of a home semifinal.”


Muir pointed out that a win in their last three matches – against the Crusaders and then at home against the Cheetahs and Chiefs – would probably see them end second on the log and thereby earn a home semifinal.


It won’t be easy.

 

The Crusaders are a world apart from the chasing pack if one looks at their record for the 2008 season. But they also come off a defeat and a near-loss.

They comprehensively lost to Chiefs two weekend’s ago (18-5) and Muir will have noticed that the in-your-face attitude of the Chiefs forwards unsettled the Crusaders, who have a few injury problems of their own.


The Crusaders were also not at their best when they scraped through 26-22 against the Blues in their derby match last weekend, and now seem less invincible than before the injury to Dan Carter.


The Cheetahs are at home to the Highlanders on Friday evening, and will have to do much better to ensure victory against a side that took the Stormers to the wire last weekend.


Both sides are languishing near the bottom of the log, and both will be without much enthusiasm for a match that they probably don’t believe they can win. But the Free State franchise is at home.


The Highlanders play the last match of their tour, and the Cheetahs have enough talent to make this one theirs.


The Western Force could further the Sharks and Stormers cause on Friday. The Force host the fourth-placed Chiefs in Perth. The Force have had a bad run of results and are without play-maker Matt Giteau.


However, a win against the Chiefs, who have won their last five matches, will revive the Perth team’s fading hopes of possibly reaching the last four and could be a motivational factor for them, as will be their coach John Mitchell who faces his former charges in this clash.


Friday’s matches (SA times, home teams first)
Crusaders v Sharks, 9.35am;
Force v Chiefs, 1.05pm;
Cheetahs v Highlanders, 7.10pm


Sapa – Super14.com

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