Jake White’s Coastal Sharks will look to regain the outright Super 15 series lead this weekend and impose their daunting home record on the Golden Lions.
The New South Wales Waratahs and defending champions the Waikato Chiefs have the weekend off with byes, so the Sharks can return to the top with victory over the Johannesburg-based Lions.
The Sharks have not lost to the Lions in Durban since 2000 and the four-time Super Rugby runners-up are looking to go one better under the 2007 World Cup-winning coach White this season.
“Everybody knows him [White], he has everything behind his name,” Sharks center and 2007 Springbok World Cup winner Francois Steyn said.
“He went through Under-21s, he won the World Cup, he also went to a poor Brumbies side and took them to the final last year, so nobody can question his pedigree,” Steyn added.
“He’s done well and we’ve been winning, so I think all of us are looking forward to doing well under him,” he said.
The Sharks downed the Northern Bulls and New Zealand’s Wellington Hurricanes before having last weekend off.
This will be a good test for the Lions, who have regained their Super 15 status after being relegated last year, and have looked promising in beating the Central Cheetahs and Western Stormers before going down to the Bulls.
The Bulls earned their first win of the season against the Lions, but face the Auckland Blues, who beat them in their previous meeting in Pretoria two years ago.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has made changes in the forward pack, with Werner Kruger at tight-head for Frik Kirsten and flanker Deon Stegmann to start for the first time this season.
John Kirwan’s Blues are in a confident mood after turning over fierce New Zealand rivals the Canterbury Crusaders 35-24 last week to keep the seven-time champions win-less.
“Now we’ve got that win behind us we can start to build back up and set about what we are trying to do,” Blues captain Luke Braid said.
“We got a lot right against the Crusaders and the boys were pretty bouncy after the win,” he added.
The Queensland Reds are looking to bounce back from their 32-5 thrashing by the Waratahs last week, but face the Cheetahs, who are also coming off a surprise loss to the Rebels in Melbourne.
Winger Rod Davies and hooker James Hanson are among five changes to the Reds, while the Cheetahs have not won in three visits to Brisbane.
The Reds are expecting the Cheetahs to be a different proposition than they were when thumped 41-8 in Brisbane in Queensland’s championship-winning season in 2011.
“These guys throw the ball around and they play a side-to-side game, and we’ve been focusing on that,” Davies said.
“They’ve got some live sparks in their team who like to run it from anywhere, so we have to have our heads on for that,” he added.
The ACT Brumbies say they are to use star Wallabies flanker David Pocock’s season-ending injury as a catalyst when they take on the Hurricanes in Wellington today.
Pocock went down late in Saturday’s win over the Western Force in Perth and an arthroscopy on Wednesday confirmed he had again ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
“We’re going to make sure this performance is a pretty special one,” skipper Ben Mowen said.
“If you lose a guy like that, you want to make sure he knows how much he means to the boys,” he added.
In the weekend’s other games, the Crusaders are to seek their first win of the season against the Stormers in Christchurch, while the Force are scheduled to host the Rebels in Perth.