Pretoria - Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar says they have to perform at a higher level against the Sharks if they want to advance to the Currie Cup final.
The Bulls thumped the Golden Lions 50-29 in Johannesburg last week, but the coach expect his players to up their level even more at Kings Park on Saturday.
“We know that in semi-finals, mistakes and discipline will cost you," Pienaar said.
"We conceded 15 penalties against the Lions, which I am not happy with, and with that you concede field position and ball possession."
For the first time this season Pienaar on Wednesday announced an unchanged side for two consecutive matches after they dismantled their trans-Jukskei rivals.
The Bulls had been inconsistent for most of the season but Pienaar believed the team’s victory over the Cheetahs four weeks ago was the turning point in their campaign.
The side’s defensive struggles were well documented this season, though they improved in leaps and bounds in recent weeks.
Pienaar highlighted their improved defence as one of the key factors for turning a possible disastrous campaign around.
“The biggest step-up we made was defensively over the last four games, and if you have a look at the games that we lost, we conceded so many soft tries and easy tries which put us under pressure,” he said.
“We basically played against ourselves and that is something we've done better.
“We are quicker in line, especially the guys’ commitment on the one-one-one tackle which has improved since the first round.”
The Pretoria-based side face a tough battle against this season’s log-leaders at Kings Park, a venue that has been an impenetrable fortress for teams travelling to Durban.
The Bulls have also not won a Currie Cup match against the Sharks in Durban since 2006, a statistic of which their captain, Dewald Potgieter, was well aware.
“They’ve been one of the more successful sides in recent seasons," Potgieter said.
"They've had a pretty good season and a lot of momentum that they carried forward from Super Rugby.
“If you want to go to Durban you have to be at your best to win there and that’s why maybe they find themselves under pressure there, because teams always have to lift themselves for that fixture, and we know we will have to do the same.”
Pienaar conceded that the Sharks were the favourites to take the spoils but he was optimistic that his team’s ability to triumph through adversity could see them cause an upset on Saturday.
“What encourages me is the fact that we fought ourselves out of hole over the last four weeks and I am looking forward to what we will bring,” Pienaar said.
“Of course the Sharks are the favourites and they have done well in the Currie Cup over the last four years.”
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Mornè Mellett
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Dean Greyling