A victory for the Sharks over the Kings in Durban on Saturday could elevate will enhance their chances of securing a home semi-final.
Although the champions are currently in third spot on the table, with 20 points from seven matches, a victory over the winless Kings will set them up nicely ahead of next weekend’s clash with the Golden Lions, who are in second place, five points ahead of them on the table.
But that clash is not Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson’s mind at the moment. He is focusing on solely on the Kings this weekend. Despite the Port Elizabeth-based side’s position in the standings, Macleod-Henderson is not underestimating them.
The men from Port Elizabeth have struggled upon their return to the Premier Division for the first time in 12 years, losing all seven of their games to date to sit bottom of the standings.
“If you look at their performances, they’ve pushed a few sides, they’ve played some nice rugby and scored a few tries,” Macleod-Henderson said.
The Sharks’ coach believed the visitors would be a threat on attack after they had crossed the whitewash 17 times in comparison to the 16 of the defending champions.
“They are quite comfortable keeping the ball in hand, so we know we’re going to have to put up a good performance on Saturday to get the result,” added Macleod-Henderson.
“Defensively we need to be strong because they like to play a bit.
“We need to make sure we make our tackles and work hard on defence, and then there are a few things on attack that we’re looking at doing.”
Last weekend the third-placed Sharks beat the Blue Bulls 26-15 in Pretoria to end a three-match winless streak – with losses to the Pumas and Griquas as well as a draw with the Free State Cheetahs.
“We want to put in a good performance. We want the result and to keep improving as a team,” said Macleod-Henderson.
“In the last two games, there have been patches of fantastic play. If we can string that together for 80 minutes, it will be hard for any side to live with us.
“We must primarily focus on how we play. If we get that right, and do that for 80 minutes, I’m pretty confident we will get the win.”
Although the Kings have been competitive in recent weeks their defence has let them down.
Knowing they have scored one more try than the Sharks this season will certainly give the visitors some confidence going into the clash.
The hosts, however, will be mindful of the fact that the Port Elizabeth team have only beaten them once since the 1996 season when they registered a 22-16 victory in Port Elizabeth in 1999.
Despite his side’s poor form Kings coach Carlos Spencer believes his charges can make life difficult for the Sharks.
“I do believe these guys can do the job,” he said.
“There’s a good mix of youth and experience so it’s up to them to make the most of their opportunities.”
Prediction: The Sharks will be too strong for their visitors and this will be the biggest mismatch of the weekend. Sharks to win by 18 points!
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 S’bura Sithole, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 JC Astle, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick. Replacements 16 Franco Marais, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Johan Meyer, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Tim Swiel, 22 Tonderai Chavhanga.
EP Kings: 15 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 14 Ronnie Cooke, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Ntabeni Dukisa, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Tobie Botes, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Devin Oosthuizen, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Darron Nell (c), 4 Steven Cummins, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Albe de Swardt, 17 Charl du Plessis, 18 Cameron Lindsay, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Scott van Breda.
Date: Saturday, 27 September
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 14.00 local (12.00 GMT)
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, Eduan Nel