This week's round of matches could play a defining role in determining who the real contenders are in the 2012 Currie Cup.
The Sharks are the only side who have lost just once this season and are setting the pace, but only five points separate the five remaining teams on the standings.
John Plumtree's men have a tricky assignment when they take on Griquas in Kimberley in Saturday's first fixture. The home side are on a high after they shocked the Golden Lions in Johannesburg last week to claim their first victory of the season.
After that encounter, the Blue Bulls host the Lions in Pretoria. The Bulls were comprehensively outplayed in their defeat to Western Province in Cape Town and will be desperate for a win.
In the final match of the round, third-paced Free State Cheetahs host Province, who are second in the standings after that impressive win over the Blue Bulls.
Saturday, 8 September
Griquas v Sharks
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
Free State Cheetahs v Western Province
1. Sharks 14
2. Western Province 11
3. Free State Cheetahs 10
4. Golden Lions 10
5. Blue Bulls 8
6. Griquas 6
Griquas v Sharks
GWK Park, Kimberley
The Sharks could open up a gap at the top of the table if they pull off a convincing win against their hosts.
They will not underestimate their opponents though as Griquas have held the upper hand when these two teams clashed in recent seasons at Kimberley's GWK Park.
Last year, Griquas claimed a surprisingly easy 43-22 win and in 2010 they kick-started their campaign with a season-opening 30-24 victory.
If the visitors want to secure that elusive win in Kimberley, a repeat of last week's showing against the Cheetahs is what's needed. The Sharks remained calm after trailing 21-6 at half-time, to eventually end up 34-32 winners.
Griquas' entire team deserve credit for their win over the Golden Lions last week, but one player who deserves special praise is Willie le Roux who was a constant threat on attack.
If the Sharks can keep him in check and win the battle amongst the forwards, they could end their winning drought in the Northern Cape.
Prediction:The Sharks will be full of confidence after that win over the Cheetahs. Expect Griquas to be competitive, especially during the early stages, but the visitors should take control of proceedings as they have too much class in vital positions across the park. Sharks by six!
Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Wesley Wilkins, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (c), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Richard Lawson.
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Marius Joubert.
Kick-off:15:00 (14:00 BST, 13:00 GMT)
Referee: Lesego Legoete
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
There's plenty to play for in this clash as both these are trying to bounce back after suffering humiliating losses last week.
Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar believes his team can not afford another slip-up and wants to make up for their poor performance in the defeat to Western Province.
"It is our fault and we dropped our supporters last weekend against WP and we've been that position before where we had to fight our way out of a hole," he said.
"There will come a time where you will say listen we don't have any more games left."
Pienaar is aware that the Lions are in a similar position to his side which has upped the stakes for this weekend's encounter.
"Both teams lost the weekend before and it doesn't matter whether it is home or a way, both teams have their backs against the wall," he said.
A good omen for the Blue Bulls though is the fact that despite winning the tournament in 2011, the Lions lost both their league fixtures to them.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann has wielded the axe, dropping more than half of his team that started in the defeat to Griquas.
Although Ackermann's run-on side includes game-breakers like Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe, Lions supporters will be hoping that returning utility back Jaco Taute will get a chance to show off his attacking skills off the replacements bench.
Prediction:The Bulls have dominated this fixture in recent seasons and they always seem to step up a gear when they are playing in front of their home crowd.Bulls by seven!
Blue Bulls: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Louis Fouchè, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Dewald Potgieter (c), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Lionel Cronjè, 22 Jürgen Visser.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Ross Cronjé, 21 Butch James, 22 Jaco Taute.
Kick-off:17:05 (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Free State Cheetahs v Western Province
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
After being criticised for their dour approach in previous matches, Province caught the Bulls and most enthusiasts by surprise when they played expansively in their convincing win last week.
It will be interesting to see if they implement that same game-plan against the Cheetahs who also enjoy playing in an adventurous fashion.
The Cape side will travel to the Free State Stadium looking for a third win from five matches following, but they face a Cheetahs outfit still smarting at their last-gasp loss to the Sharks, and buoyed by the return from injury of Springbok flanker Heinrich Brüssow.
A combination of injuries and call-ups to the Springbok squad has forced WP coach Allister Coetzee to blood several youngsters and he wants them to build on their most recent performance.
"We have a young team so we need to ensure that these players, despite their inexperience, are able to match that intensity from the Bulls game," he said.
"The Cheetahs will be tough, especially in Bloemfontein, but we just want to keep improving in every facet of play - like we did last week."
Brüssow's return is sure to reinvigorate the home side after their defeat to the Sharks and it will be interesting to see how WP's captain Deon Fourie, who is not a genuine flanker, fares against one of the game's best foragers.
Prediction:If WP continue with their exciting style of play this will be the most entertaining match of the weekend. The men from the Cape have a better defensive record and this could swing the match in their favour. WP by five points.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (c), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Steven Kitshoff, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Patrick Howard, 22 Kurt Coleman.
Kick-off:19:10 (18:10 BST, 17:10 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan