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Former Super Rugby champ to contest title

Monday, July 28, 2014

CHRISTCHURCH - The Crusaders secured their place in the Super Rugby final beating the Sharks 38-6 on Saturday night in their semi-final in Christchurch.

In perfect conditions at AMI Stadium, the Crusaders used stoic defence and precise attacking movements to see off the challenge of the 2012 finalists, who trailed 16-6 at halftime.

After dominating the Highlanders' pack in last week's qualifying final, the Sharks found themselves in an unfamiliar position as the Crusaders matched their physicality up front.

The New Zealand franchise thrashed their South African opponents with tries to Kieran Read, Nemani Nadolo, Willi Heinz, Johnny McNicholl and Matt Todd.

In the Crusaders' 11th final appearance, against the NSW Waratahs or Brumbies, coach Todd Blackadder will have a second chance to secure his first title at the helm, and the Crusaders' eighth since 1998.

Playing his first game in five weeks due to a fractured rib, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw worked well with fellow loose forwards Read and Todd to manage the pace of the game as frustration set in among the Sharks' forwards.

The subsequent penalties allowed Dan Carter to add 13 points with the boot and keep his side in front from just the second minute.

A lambasting from coach Jake White, captured by television cameras, failed to inspire the Sharks to gain the upper hand in a classic semi-final arm-wrestle in the second half.

The Sharks are experts at using their kickers to smother opponents, but it was obvious from the outset that nerves, and perhaps the long trek from Durban, may have taken a toll.

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