Crusaders sink the Bismarck to enter Super finals
Canterbury Crusaders captain Kieran Read (R) scores a try next to Andy Ellis during the Super 15 rugby union semi final at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on July 26, 2014 - by Fiona Goodall
After a slow start to the season, in which the Crusaders lost their first two matches, the seven-times champions have put themselves in contention for their first title since 2008.
They outscored the Bismarck du Plessis-led Sharks five tries to nil and continued a remarkable record of never having lost any of the 16 play-off matches they have hosted.
Whether they will also have a home final next weekend depends on whether the ACT Brumbies beat the NSW Waratahs in the other semi-final later Saturday. If the Waratahs win, the final will be in Sydney.
The talk before the match was whether the Crusaders would be able to match the feared Sharks forwards, but instead it was the Sharks who lost lineouts, scrums and eventually conceded a try from a lineout drive.
"We knew that's where the game was going to be won or lost," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said.
"We started really well and were able to put a lot of pressure on them. We played at a pretty high tempo early which probably set the scene."
No South African side has ever won a play-off match in New Zealand and the Sharks never looked like changing that record, leaving Du Plessis distraught as not only was his pack pounded but the backs had a nightmare time from well directed kicks by Israel Dagg.
"It was absolutely, extremely disappointing. Everything we worked on in the last two weeks -- we couldn't field the high balls, we didn't play in the right areas -- I'm extremely disappointed in our performance," he said.
After Dan Carter put the Crusaders on the board with a second-minute penalty, Read scored the only try of the first half when the Crusaders pounced on a wayward clearing kick by Paul Jordaan.
Nemani Nadolo ran the ball straight back at the Sharks and world player-of-the-year Read finished off the move when he swatted aside an attempted Jordaan tackle to score under the posts.
Carter landed the conversion and two further penalties while Patrick Lambie landed two penalties for the Sharks to have the Crusaders ahead 16-6 at half-time.
In the second half the Crusaders ran the heavier Sharks pack to a standstill as they produced a further four tries to Nemani Nadolo, Willi Heinz, Johnny McNicholl and Matt Todd.
Heinz try came when the Crusaders demolished a Sharks' defensive scrum and Todd scored when the Crusaders used the Sharks ace move of a lineout drive.