Sharks looking toothless

THE Sharks look undone ahead of the opening match of their Super 14 tour Down Under against the Crusaders in Christchurch, New Zealand, tomorrow.

After the ignominy of yet another home defeat to the Cheetahs at the weekend, there is little respite for this year's early contenders for the wooden spoon, though the Lions might have something to say about that.

First up on tour is an encounter against the record seven-time Super rugby champions the Crusaders, who are smarting from a shock 41-20 trouncing against the Reds in Brisbane last week.

The last time the Sharks beat the Crusaders was back in 2007, when they went on to lose the final against the Bulls. And while the Crusaders have lost their aura of invincibility in the competition, the Sharks have shown little in their opening two matches to suggest they can win consistently on the road.

They looked short of imagination and confidence in the 19-18 defeat by the Chiefs and Friday's 25-20 loss to the Cheetahs, both at home. While the Sharks are among the best travellers of the South African sides in the competition, it will take a gargantuan effort to make it to the semifinals this year.

Coach John Plumtree said after Friday's loss: "It's the first time since I've been here that we started badly."

Next up is a trip to Sydney to face the tough Waratahs, then it's off to Canberra for a date with the Brumbies before a return to New Zealand for matches against the Highlanders and Hurricanes.

If the Sharks, who now have former England flyhalf Andy Goode in their squad, play out of their socks in Australia and New Zealand they will have a glimmer of hope, but at what cost?