The Sharks face their toughest assignment to date in the 2008 Vodacom Super 14 when they host the first-placed Blues at the Absa Stadium in Durban on Saturday (19h10).
SARUGBY website reports that the Sharks have been the pick of the SA teams so far. They are unbeaten in three starts and currently lie third on the log, two points adrift of the Blues.
They showed good form in their wins over the Force, Vodacom Stormers and Vodacom Bulls but will have to lift their performance considerably against a Blues outfit that has been clinical in its demolition of the Auto & General Lions and the Vodacom Cheetahs in recent weeks. The Blues have averaged six tries a game in the opening three rounds of action.
Despite their opponents current form, the Sharks have been somewhat of a bogey team for the Blues in their Super Rugby history.
In their previous 11 meetings since 1998, the Sharks have won seven and lost four. They will also be aiming for a fourth consecutive win over the men from Auckland on Saturday after having won in the 2007 Semi-Finals (34-18), in the 2007 Round Robin (32-25) and in 2006 (32-15).
In their previous six meetings in Durban, the Sharks have won four, with the Blues last win at the Absa Stadium being in 2004. They also won in Durban in 2000. The Sharks will be hoping that home advantage will again give them an edge as they seek to become the first side to put the skids under a Blues side that has left the starting blocks at a sprint.
Last 11 meetings in Vodacom Super 14
The Sharks have won 7, Blues have won 4
2007 Sharks 34 Blues 18 in Durban
2007 Sharks 32 Blues 25 in Auckland
2006 Sharks 32 Blues 15 in Durban
2005 Sharks 13 Blues 36 in Auckland
2004 Sharks 26 Blues 37 in Durban
2003 Sharks 16 Blues 25 in Auckland
2002 Sharks 20 Blues 13 in Durban
2001 Sharks 41 Blues 27 in Auckland
2000 Sharks 19 Blues 30 in Durban
1999 Sharks 12 Blues 6 in Auckland
1998 Sharks 24 Blues 8 in Durban
Another interesting match-up at the weekend is the Highveld derby between the Bulls and the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening (19h05).
Both sides are in desperate need of a win after disappointing losses over the past two weeks – the Bulls going down against the Crusaders and the Sharks, and the Lions losing to the Blues and the Force.
The Bulls have dominated recent clashes between the two sides and will go into the match as favourites in front of the Loftus faithful, who will expect something more than what they have seen recently. The Lions, who were better defensively against the Force last week, will be aware that this might be their best chance yet of an upset in the Bullring.
Last 5 meetings in Vodacom Super 14
Bulls have won 4, Lions have won 1
2007 Bulls 31 Lions 7 in Jhb
2006 Bulls 46 Lions (Cats) 17 in Pretoria
2005 Bulls 17 Lions (Cats) 23 in Jhb
2004 Bulls 62 Lions (Cats) 52 in Pretoria
2003 Bulls 34 Lions (Cats) 26 in Jhb
The big Australian derby match this week is in Sydney where the Waratahs host the Brumbies on Friday (10h40 SA time). In New Zealand derby action, the Highlanders meet the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Friday (08h35 SA).Tweet