The Sharks face Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday in what is a make or break fixture for the Durban-based outfit.
Sharks head coach Gary Gold and his troops go into their penultimate Currie Cup league match with huge expectation on their shoulders, not only from outside but also from within as they look to prove their credentials.
Their final two league games – against Griquas and Free State in Bloemfontein next weekend – are effectively knock-out matches with everything to play for and a place in the play-offs looming should they take maximum points from the last two deciders.
Free State are four points ahead of them with a potentially tricky clash against the Pumas in Nelspruit this weekend. The Pumas' Mbombela Stadium venue is something of a fortress for them, having won two of their three games at home this season.
Should both the Sharks and Free State win their respective matches, or Free State lose, the final game between these sides becomes a knock-out match, with the winner advancing through to the semi-finals.
Sharks forwards coach Ryan Strudwick knows the permutations and there is pressure on the team to finish the pool stages on a high.
“There is a lot of pressure on the players and we need to find the balance between confidence and not going into our shells, where the fear of failure trumps the desire to succeed, he said.
"That’s the challenge for us as coaching staff to prevent that fear of failure and hopefully the players will express themselves and play with freedom, and hopefully chase those four tries.”
Griquas are languishing at the foot of the table, but they have the ability to lift their game when they are playing at home and Strudwick expects a tough assignment.
“There is still a lot at stake for us; we need to pick up a win at least, but hopefully a bonus point as well,” he added.
“There is everything to play for, we’re still in the running.
“But it’s going to be tough going to Kimberley, many teams have struggled there. We have stumbled there before, although admittedly it was at the beginning of the season and we feel we’ve matured enough this year, we’ve come along in this campaign. So we go up there with confidence and a nice blend of youth and experience.
“Although Griquas are bottom of the log, we know that every team in this competition – on any given day – is a credible threat, especially playing up in Kimberley which is a bit of a fortress for them.
“They have nothing to lose, nothing to play for, so we expect them to run everything at us.”
Griquas boss Hawies Fourie has made a couple of changes to his run-on side.
Amongst the backs, Ruhan Nel returns from SARU Sevens Academy duty and he slots in at left wing in place of Ntabeni Dukisa, who is now full-back, with Gouws Prinsloo on the bench.
In the front row Ewald van der Westhuizen makes way for Stephan Kotze. Sandile Ngcobo, another Sevens Academy member, is amongst the replacements.
Prediction: Although the Sharks are playing away from home, they will be victorious and secure that much-needed bonus point. Sharks to win by 10 points!
Griquas: 15 Ntabeni Dukisa, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Michael van der Spuy, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Ruhan Nel, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Jono Janse van Rensburg, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jonathan Adendorf, 3 Stephan Kotze, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Abraham le Roux, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Leon Karemaker, 19 Wendal Wehr, 20 Dylon Frylinck, 21 Gouws Prinsloo, 22 Sandile Ngcobo.
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 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Christiaan de Bruin, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Garth April.
Date: Saturday, October 3
Venue: Griqua Park, Kimberley
Kick-off: 15.00 local (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman, Pieter Janse van Vuuren