Durban - Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford expects the Blue Bulls to enter their Currie Cup clash in Durban on Friday night high on confidence, despite their lowly position in the standings.
The Pretoria outfit are second from bottom on the competition log with 13 points, while the coastal outfit are in second place on an overall tally of 21.
With just three regular season rounds remaining, there is still plenty to play for and Bashford refused to write off the Bulls, who were 34-30 winners over the Free State Cheetahs last weekend.
“It’s always difficult against the Bulls," Bashford said.
"They’re a tough team and I think that win for them on the weekend was huge.
“They responded well to the pressure they were under to win it.
“I heard their coach (Pine Pienaar) say it was a final for them.
"They backed themselves and they got it.”
This year’s competition, reduced to a shortened six-team format, has been one of the tightest races witnessed in recent seasons.
The Bulls and Cheetahs have especially found it tough but continue to slug it out in the race for the top four.
“The Sharks and Bulls always bring the best out of each other," Bashford said.
"That win against the Cheetahs will give them a lot of confidence.
“We know how they play and expect a big challenge this week.”
John Plumtree’s men are well placed to mount a strong challenge for a home semi-final.
“It’s really the side that wins the next three games that is likely to have a home semi-final and final,” Bashford said.
“With two of our last three games taking place at home, where we have only lost once this year, we really want to start building momentum heading into the knockout stage.”
Bulls boss Pienaar felt his side still needed to raise their game in order to kick on from the victory over the Cheetahs.
“It was good to win and for the confidence of the players, but we will definitely need to do more this week against the Sharks,” he said.
The under-fire coach also acknowledged that pressure was still on his side to deliver.
“If you want to win the Currie Cup you have to get into that semi-final, and it doesn’t matter where you play, away or home,” Pienaar said.
“It’s great to win against the Cheetahs but we have three games left, as do the sides above us.
“The pressure is back on against the Sharks and we have to be spot on.”