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Sharks ready for battle with Chiefs

Date

THE Sharks say they relish the underdog tag ahead of today's Super Rugby final in which favourites the Chiefs have been boosted by confirmation captain Craig Clarke has been cleared to play.

The Chiefs host the championship decider at home in Hamilton because of their superior placing in the regular season where they finished second, while the Sharks were the sixth and last team to qualify for the play-offs.

To make the top six, after mixed fortunes through the first half of the year, the Sharks won six of their final seven regular season games.

They have since clocked up a Super finals series travelling record as they criss-crossed the Indian Ocean three times to beat the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, the Stormers in Cape Town and now they're in Hamilton.

But coach John Plumtree reckons doing it the hard way has been good for the team.

''It's given us that little bit of confidence going into the big game,'' he said. ''We've beaten the Australian conference winners, the South African winners and now we take on the New Zealand winners, it's been great for our team spirit.

''We know we have a lot of support back home and we're also aware of the fact that no one is really giving us a chance, so it's an opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong that we can pick ourselves up and go again.''

During the regular season the Sharks lost six of 16 matches, while the Chiefs dropped four after being written off at the start of the year as a side that lacked depth of experience.

Much of their ability to close out matches lay with the leadership skills of Clarke, whose appearance in the final was in doubt after he strained a knee ligament during last week's semi-final win against the Canterbury Crusaders.

He was only cleared to play late Thursday and his locking partner, Brodie Retallick, said it was the tonic the Chiefs were looking for.

''It's just awesome what he's done and to have him out there, just with his leadership around the field and come lineout time, it's definitely a bonus to have him there,'' he said.

The Chiefs will be starting with the same run-on side that beat the Crusaders 20-17 in the semi-finals, while the Sharks have made two changes to the side that beat the Stormers 26-19. Paul Jordaan replaces the injured Tim Whitehead at inside-centre and Patrick Lambie returns from injury to start at full-back ahead of Riaan Viljoen.

In the history of Super Rugby, the Chiefs have a slight edge over the Sharks, winning eight of their 15 clashes.

AGENCIES

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
 
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