The Sharks will be hoping for their third win on the trot when they host the Kings in Durban on Saturday.
A win is imperative for the Sharks this weekend if they want to get ahead of their Africa 2 Conference opposition. The Sharks have nine points and are tied with the Jaguares and Lions at the top. Although they are at number one due to points difference.
The Kings are on four points after their solitary win but could get some much-needed gains on the opposition if they were to pull off a shock win in Durban.
The Sharks will be confident going into the fixture having won all four previous games between these teams, and have outscored the Kings 154-21 across their last three meetings. The Sharks proving to be strong at home having won their last two games on home turf against South African teams, the last time they enjoyed a longer winning streak in such games was a four-game stint ending in 2014.
The Kings have a terrible record against their compatriots as they continue to search for their first Super Rugby win against South African opposition and have conceded eight tries and more than 50 points in each of their last three road fixtures against fellow South African teams.
Goalkicking could be an interesting part of the clash as the Sharks have slotted more penalty goals so far this season than any other side and have conceded a joint-low three penalty goals, while the Kings are the only team in the competition who are yet to miss a kick at goal. Fly-half Lionel Cronjé has kicked 15 goals without missing; no other player has hit more than six without missing at least once.
Sharks centre Andre Esterhuizen admits that mental preparation is just as important as on-the-field training.
“The thing with the Kings is that you can never underestimate them,” he explains.
“If they get their tails in the air, it could be a long night for us, so starting well is important for us. We also mustn’t allow the game to get loose, we must keep to our structures, earn the right to go wide and we will play from there; and hopefully score some tries.”
Kings head coach Deon Davids admitted that his side were expecting a hard game against an in-form Sharks outfit this weekend.
“It is always difficult to go to Durban, but we are looking forward to this game,” Davids said.
Following last weekend’s defeat, the head coach stressed the importance of building on the positives from the last match while improving on areas that needed to get better.
“There were aspects of our game last week where we did some good things, but there is also stuff that we need to tidy up,” Davids added.
“At times we do seem like we are losing against ourselves. We need to be more clinical, it’s all about executing better. It is important that we up our work ethic and do the work for 80m minutes.”
The last time these teams met: The Sharks ran eight unanswered tries past a hapless Kings outfit to win 53-0. The home side were in a rampant mood with Springbok fly-half Pat Lambie continued his fine form with a 23-point haul via a brace of tries, five conversions and a penalty. Paul Jordaan, Willie Le Roux, Andre Esterhuizen, JP Pietersen, and Thomas Du Toit also scored on the day.
Players to watch: His form seems to improve with every game so a fixture against his old team should mean a field day for young outside centre Lukhanyo Am. The former King has been the cornerstone of the Sharks defence this season while showing a knack for predicting where play is going to go. He also has a deceptive side step that could break some ankles this weekend.
Makazole Mapimpi has been electric for the Kings so far this season. The flyer has shown an uncanny ability to create opportunities out of nothing. He has scored two tries this season after a sensational break against the Jaguares where he used his phenomenal pace to skirt the opposition defenders and then again against the Stormers where he showed astute ball control to grab a grubber that was already out of bounce mid-air to score in the corner.
Team news: A fairly strong side has been named for the Sharks with the most noticeable differences, Odwa Ndungane filling in for an injured Lwazi Mvovo in the 11 jersey, while 20-year old Benhard Janse van Rensburg will take the reins at fly-half with Curwin Bosch starting at full-back. In the absence of Lambie, the more than capable Tera Mtembu will captain the side from number eight. There is an all-new front row, with Thomas du Toit, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Lourens Adriaanse replacing Tendai Mtawarira, Franco Marais and Coenie Oosthuizen respectively.
The Kings have promoted Wilhelm van der Sluys to the starting line up. He will start at lock alongside Irne Herbst with Tyler Paul, who started in the five jersey on the past two matches, moving to the bench. Andisa Ntsila gets back into the starting team at seven, replacing Thembelani Bholi. In the backline, star scrum-half Louis Schreuder, who has been cleared following a concussion against the Sunwolves a fortnight ago, will start at nine, while Berton Klaasen makes his way back to centre, replacing Luzuko Vulindlu, who sustained a concussion against the Stormers last week.
Form: The Sharks have recovered well after their 28-26 slip up against the Reds after winning away against the Brumbies, beating them 27-22 in Canberra, courtesy of a last-minute Am try. They then ran the Waratahs ragged in Durban 37-14, showing that they are definitely gaining momentum.
The Kings’ form is not as positive. After losing 39-26 to the Jaguares in a game where the score did not reflect the performance they beat the Sunwolves away in Singapore with a 37-23 win. Things were looking good for the Kings before 41-10 thrashing at the hands of the Stormers in Port Elizabeth.
Prediction: The Sharks are historically good against the Kings and that shouldn’t change this weekend, especially since they are playing in Durban. Sharks by 20.
2016: Sharks won 53-0 in Durban
2016: Sharks won 43-8 in Port Elizabeth
2013: Sharks won 58-13 in Durban
2013: Sharks won 21-12 in Port Elizabeth
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Garth April
Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Louis Scheurder, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Andisa Ntsila, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c)
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Justin Forwood, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Johann Tromp
Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: King’s Park, Durban
Kick-off: 19:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Egon Seconds (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)