The Sharks are the only South African team to have won a Super Rugby fixture in Christchurch in the past five years, but no domestic side has won a Super Rugby play-off in New Zealand.
That is the scale of the challenge facing the Sharks in their Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Sharks have defeated three of the four New Zealand teams they have faced this season‚ but they did not play against the table-topping Crusaders.
This knock-out game will serve as an accurate assessment of how decent or undercooked the Sharks have been.
Consistency has not been a pillar on which the Sharks have built their season in 2018, but their captain, Ruan Botha, reckons they have an opportunity to create history even though they will have to pull off something South African teams have been unable to do in the 22-year existence of Super Rugby.
"History is history. You write your own path.
"There’s no team that’s going to go out there and arrive on history and go out there to lose. We’re in it to win as we want to finish our campaign on a high‚" Botha said.
"Travel isn’t always easy but we have to adapt to it as quickly as possible. We’ve got good staff who take good care of us. It’s a case of us going out there and doing the basics well."
The Crusaders have kept their rugby pretty simple while scoring a truckload of tries. The Sharks have defended reasonably well but they face an examination like no other.
What the Sharks have also done well is outmuscle New Zealand teams‚ but the Crusaders and their All Black-laden pack are a different kettle of fish. They are also a multiskilled side whose backs can tear errant defences apart.
Botha is aware of the Crusaders’ all-round strengths, but felt their pack had not been tested this season.
"One thing they’ve done well this season is to keep the ball, and they also have their mini-plays with ball in hand. We need to put them under pressure and our defence is capable of doing that‚" Botha said.
"They have a world-class front row and world-class locks so it’s going to be a difficult set-piece battle."