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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sharks facing travel nightmare to reach Nelson

Sharks facing travel nightmare to reach Nelson

Last updated 08:45 22/06/2011
The Sharks' chances of beating the Crusaders are up in the air - literally - with the South Africans struggling to organise travel to New Zealand because of the Chilean ash cloud.

A tactical decision to leave late from Durban to Nelson could backfire as they battle to get to New Zealand.

They were booked on a flight to Sydney that now looks like being diverted to Brisbane because Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra airports remain closed.

The Sharks will have to make alternative arrangements to get from Brisbane to Wellington and then over the Cook Strait to Nelson for Saturday's sudden-death Super Rugby playoff.

The Sharks would normally have flown out immediately after beating the Bulls last Saturday to secure their spot in the playoffs.

However, coach John Plumtree said their delay was a ploy to try to emulate the successful travel formula of the Bulls and Springboks on their road trips in recent years.

"We will stay on South African time for the duration of our visit. For a farm boy like me, it is a very foreign thing, but maybe the players will be more used to going to bed at 2am and waking up at noon," he said.

Plumtree said the short turnaround was a big problem for the Sharks, especially taking on a proven finals side like the Crusaders.

That challenge has intensified with the travel disruptions across the bottom of the globe.

"I think our biggest hurdle is actually getting there, getting ready and getting over the jet lag," Plumtree said.

"We haven't got a lot of time, so how we prepare when we arrive is definitely going to be crucial to how we play on Saturday."

The Sharks received a late blow when lock Steve Sykes failed a fitness test.

He missed the 26-23 win over the Bulls in Pretoria because of an ankle injury and could not shake it in time to make the trip to New Zealand.

 "Steve would have been handy in New Zealand given the expected conditions, with rain and cold predicted for the game, but then Alistair Hargreaves and Gerhard Mostert had really big games against the Bulls," Plumtree said.

Wing Odwa Ndungane has now recovered from a hand injury to make the trip.

Flanker Jacques Botes and prop Eugene van Stadenalso got on the plane in the 24-player squad.

South African critics give the Sharks a chance, believing their form is coming right when it matters.

But it will take a huge effort to beat the Crusaders, especially after the New Zealanders crunched them in their specially arranged match in London earlier in the season.

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