Sharks brace for 'massive' test against improved Blues
Cape Town - The Sharks go into their clash against the Blues in Durban on Saturday desperate to build a solid platform on their home turf.
A 45-10 bonus-point victory over the Sunwolves in Singapore went down well in week one, but this will be a far tougher test.
Local bookmakers Sportingbet, somewhat surprisingly, have the Blues as favourites to win the match.
It shows how highly-rated the New Zealand teams are, and Sharks coach Robert du Preez was watching closely when the Blues fell to a 24-22 loss to the defending champion Crusaders in Auckland last weekend.
"They are obviously a formidable side and you would have seen how well they played against the Crusaders," Du Preez told media in Durban on Thursday.
"We can't worry too much about them. We have to do what we want to do and we've spent a lot of time on that.
"It's going to be difficult conditions on Saturday ... hot and humid, and that should work for us."
The importance of winning at home, Du Preez added, is key.
"It's really important that we win all our home games if we want to be in contention to be in the playoffs. This first one is a massive one for us," he said.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 15:00.
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Curwin Bosch
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Tanielu Tele’a