The Chiefs host the Sharks in a repeat of last year's Super Rugby final at Waikato Stadium this Saturday, with both teams out of form.
The Chiefs host the Sharks in a repeat of last year's Super Rugby final at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday, with both teams out of form.
It is the first time these two teams will meet since the Chiefs secured last year's title with a 37-6 victory, but unlike 2012, both sides have been inconsistent this season and are battling to return to their winning ways.
The Chiefs are currently in fifth position on the table, while the Sharks are in seventh place in the standings. Both sides have lost their last two matches – the Chiefs to the Reds and Waratahs and the Sharks to the Stormers and Cheetahs – and will head into this match low on confidence.
That should not detract from what should still be an entertaining spectacle, however. Both sides are exponents of the running game and don't expect them to deviate from that philosophy.
Chiefs boss Dave Rennie knows how important victory is for both teams.
“Last time when these two sides met it was a final, but they are completely different circumstances this time,” he said.
The Sharks are a depleted unit, after injuries to several key players, but coach John Plumtree believes his side will have to forget what has happened in the last couple of weeks and focus on delivering a top class performance.
“We just have to dig in and do our best,” he said.
“We've worked really hard on our game, trying to improve our game, trying to improve our attack, but it is really difficult with all these (injury) setbacks.”
The track record of previous matches between these two teams reveals that the Chiefs hold a slight edge over the Durban-based franchise with nine victories to the Sharks seven wins in sixteen matches played.
The men from Hamilton hold a psychological edge over their opponents, however, as they have won the last four matches – including two wins in Durban in 2012 and 2010 – in which these teams played against each other.
The Sharks are desperate for a win after slipping out of the play-off positions last weekend while the Chiefs know a loss could see them also missing out on the knockout stages as the tournament heads towards its business end.
Prediction: Both sides will give everything to leave the field as victors which should make this a very close encounter. The Sharks' undoing could prove to be the long flight they undertook from Durban earlier this week. Chiefs to win by five points!
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Michael Kainga, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Bundee Aki, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Francois Steyn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Piet Lindeque, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Wiehahn Herbst.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 S'bura Sithole.
Date: Saturday, April 27
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Waikato Stadium
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)