The Sharks face a daunting task when they take on tournament table-toppers the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
After six rounds of action, the Lions are the only unbeaten side left in the competition. Under the guidance of head coach Johan Ackermann they've opened a four-point gap at the top of the table after beating the Blue Bulls 36-28 in Pretoria last weekend.
That result means they are sitting pretty at the top of the table on 29 points with the Bulls four points adrift in second place and WP third on 20 points.
The Sharks are a distant fourth with just 13 points from their six matches.
These sides met in the corresponding match in round three with the Golden Lions claiming a 31-16 bonus-point victory in Durban.
Despite that result, Ackermann is not underestimating the Sharks, who, despite going down, held the lead inside the final quarter of that previous fixture between thse sides.
“It is a quality side, and people may disagree with me because we haven’t lost a game but if you look at how many players with Super Rugby experience they have there is a lot of quality in that side,” Ackermann said at the team announcement in Johannesburg on Thursday.
“We didn’t play well against them down in Durban, we know they will come out firing and it is a massive challenge for us as it will be a big thing for them to come and beat us up here.”
The Sharks are yet to hit top form this season and suffered a 37-27 defeat to WP in Durban lasy weekend. Their head coach Gary Gold knows they have a huge mountain to climb against the in-form Lions.
"The Lions are a fantastic side and have shown what they are capable off and how devastating they can be against opposition teams," he said.
"Our performance in this competition has not been good enough.
"We have a lot to prove and we are still in the fight. Nothing less than an 80-minute performance will do on Saturday."
Prediction: The Golden Lions are on a high and shouldn't have any trouble in taking this one. Lions to win by 10 points!
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Ruan Dreyer.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 MB Lusaseni, 19 Stephan de Witt, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Anthony Volmink.
Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Dave McDuling, 19 Daniel du Preez, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Garth April.
Date: Saturday, September 19
Kick-off: 14:30 local (12:10 GMT)
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Francois Pretorius, Jaco Kotze
Television match official: Willie Vos