Richie McCaw returned to Super 14 rugby as a second-half replacement for Canterbury as the Crusaders beat the Natal Sharks 35-6 yesterday. The All Blacks captain missed the first two rounds while on extended leave but returned to give Canterbury a boost after a second-round loss to Queensland. The Crusaders built on a sturdy first-half defensive effort to score 25 unanswered points in the second spell after taking a narrow 10-6 lead into the break.
"Our defence really set the tone for us out there tonight. There were some great hits coming up from the boys and they set it up for us," Kieran Read, the Crusaders captain said. The Sharks lost John Smit, the South Africa captain, twice to the blood bin before he was finally forced from the field with a head cut after 69 minutes. "We were beaten by a better side. We couldn't get our numbers right on attack and pose any threat or build any pressure," Smit said. "We need to get some numbers on the board if we want to win some games."
Zac Guildford scored two tries for the Crusaders while replacements Adam Whitelock and Quentin McDonald added tries in a bonus-point win. Daniel Carter kicked three conversions and three penalties for 15 points. There are five more games in the Super 14 today. Pretoria Bulls, the defending champions, will look to add to the 101 points they have scored in their first two wins when they host the New South Wales Waratahs.
Jaco van der Westhuyzen, the former Springbok fly-half, will be on the bench for the Bulls after being granted international clearance following his signing from Japanese side NEC Green Rockets. Van der Westhuyzen admitted to having some problems when he trained with the Bulls for the first time on Monday. "It was a bit of a system overload for me, to be honest," he said. "I never expected the Bulls to progress that much since I last played for them in 2007. But I am happy to say that I have slotted in well during training and am really looking forward to this match and to make a contribution."
In England, there are two matches in the Guinness Premiership, with leaders Leicester visiting Northampton, who are currently five points behind the Tigers. Gloucester are at home to Sale Sharks, who have lost their last six games. @Email:email@example.com Pretoria Bulls v NSW Waratahs, 9.10pm, Showsports 3