LONDON, March 25- Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder is hoping to spread the gospel of Super Rugby to the northern hemisphere when his side take on the Sharks in London on Sunday.
The week six fixture is being played at Twickenham because the Crusaders’ ground in Christchurch was damaged by last month’s earthquake and the franchise are now being forced to play away from AMI Stadium this season.
But Blackadder sees the game, for which a crowd of over 50,000 is expected, as a chance to show European rugby fans what Super Rugby is all about and hinted he would be happy to return to London for more matches in the future.
"This is a toe in the water," Blackadder told reporters in London. "For us it is out of necessity. We could have stayed at home and not done anything to try and save ourselves.
"This will be great, it will be new and if it gives us other opportunities that will be fantastic as well. If the powers that be decide they would like to see other Super 15 games here and the northern hemisphere enjoys Super Rugby that would be good for our sport."
Crusaders have won three out of their first five matches although their game against the Hurricanes was declared a draw in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
John Smit’s Sharks arrived in London with four wins to their name and Blackadder has urged his side to ignore the stresses of a long-haul flight, the new venue and the circumstances of the game and concentrate on getting a valuable victory on Sunday.
"Putting my coach’s hat on, we are here to perform. The focus is to put a good performance out on Sunday. I am sure we won’t lose our focus. We are here to play rugby. We are representing those people back home and they will want to see a good performance and we are also raising funds," he said.
"It is pretty exciting, it is a first and it feels a bit funny to call it a home game. We are very excited about it. Whoever would have thought a month ago, or even two weeks ago, that we would be here. There is a real buzz about coming to London.
"We planned our recovery straight after the game against the Highlanders and made sure we got a lot of recovery in before we travelled. We are feeling pretty fresh and have made sure we have done all the right steps along the way. We are used to travelling with Super Rugby going to South Africa so it shouldn’t be too bad.
"When we play it is for a lot of people with vested interests and we take that very seriously. We know we are flying the flag and we have got some great support and we know that sport does make a huge difference in people’s lives and to make them feel good about themselves and their team is fantastic."
Almost 30,000 seats had been sold by Thursday with a portion of the ticket price being donated to the relief fund.
Twickenham authorities have started selling tickets for the second tier of the 82,000-seater stadium but the attendance will be capped at 55,000 because of transport difficulties in London on Sunday.