Sharks head coach Gary Gold's young charges face a tough assignment when they host the high-flying Golden Lions in Durban on Saturday.
The Sharks made a disastrous start to their 2015 campaign when they suffered a defeat against the Pumas in Nelspruit and they had to work hard before claiming a 33-25 victory over the Eastern Province Kings in Durban last weekend.
After racing into an 18-5 lead midway through the opening half against the Kings, the Sharks allowed the men from Port Elizabeth to come back into the game, and the visitors held a 22-18 lead during the second half before a late fightback secured the hosts victory.
Gold knows they can't afford a similar display against the Golden Lions – who are unbeaten after two matches – and has called for an improved defensive effort.
"That’s definitely not the standard we wanted from a defensive point of view," he said.
"I don’t think we’ve played for the full 80 minutes this season, there have been some very good passages of play but it’s not going to be good enough to play in fits and starts against a team like the Lions. If you fall asleep for any period of time, they’re going to hurt you."
The Lions are arguably the most entertaining side in the competition and secured try-scoring bonus points in both their previous matches. They thrashed the Kings in their season opener in Port Elizabeth and beat the Pumas 44-27 in Johannesburg last weekend.
They have plenty off pace out wide in Ruan Combrinck and Courtnall Skosan while Howard Mnisi is a superb playmaker, who brings out the best in his team-mates.
Fly-half Marnitz Boshoff will keep the scoreboard ticking with his unerring goalkicking while the Lions flankers – Kwagga Smith and captain Jaco Kriel – are two of the most dynamic forwards in the competition.
A weakness in this Lions side is their defence which is not the best in the competition. They conceded 27 points against the Pumas and the Sharks will look to exploit some of the weaknesses in the visitors' defensive pattern.
Prediction: The Golden Lions are a team on a high and will have too much firepower for their hosts. Lions to win by nine points!
Sharks: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Daniel du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 18 Dave McDuling, 19 Jean Luc du Preez, 20 Stefan Ungerer, 21 Wandile Mjekevu, 22 SP Marais.
Golden Lions: 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Ruan Dreyer.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Stephan de Wit, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Anthony Volmink.
Date: Saturday, August 22
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Jaco Kotze
TMO: Marius Jonker