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Sharks in search of sixth straight win

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The Sharks will be looking to secure a sixth straight Super 14 win when they host the Reds at the Absa Stadium in Durban on Saturday (17h00).


A win will keep the Sharks in second place and ensure that they remain in contention for a place in the playoffs. It will also give them a vital boost ahead of a tough overseas tour that kicks off against the Hurricanes on April 5 and also includes clashes with the Highlanders, Brumbies, Waratahs and Crusaders.


On current form, the hosts look a good bet for a win. The Reds have been disappointing so far and despite snatching a late draw against the Lions last week have battled to find consistency in their game.


The Sharks have been in solid form in their opening five matches and have given very little away, conceding an average of a try a game. The Reds on the other hand have leaked 16 tries in their six matches to date.


A win for the Sharks will also keep them in front of the chasing pack, with just four points separating the Sharks, Blues, Western Force and Hurricanes. All three of their rivals have crucial matches at the weekend.


On Friday, the Hurricanes host the Crusaders in Wellington (08h35 SA) and the Force take on the Stormers in Perth (13h00), whilst the Blues are at home to the Bulls on Saturday (08h35).


The Hurricanes have the physical game and strong runners to take the Crusaders on and will be looking to become the first side to beat the six-time champions in this year’s competition.


The Force, who continued their winning away form over the Highlanders last week, return to Subiaco to face a Stormers team that will be looking to make amends for its last-gasp 14-17 loss in Auckland last week.


It was the Stormers first defeat in three tour matches and they will be determined to finish their overseas trip on a high. The Cape Town-based team won 26-25 on its last visit to Perth in 2006, but was soundly beaten 22-3 at Newlands in 2007.


The Bulls’ current erratic form suggests that the Blues may have things all their own way at Eden Park but they will be wary not to take the wounded Bulls at face value.


Whilst they have won four of their last five clashes with the Blues at Loftus Versfeld, the champions have not won in Auckland since the inception of the competition in 1996. They will face a Blues side that will be buoyed by its narrow win over the Stormers after suffering successive losses to the Sharks and the Force.


The Bulls go into the game having lost three of their last four, including heavy losses to the Reds and the Chiefs, and will have to put in a mighty effort against a side that is extremely physical and devastating on the counter-attack.


The Cheetahs will continue their quest for an elusive first win in this year’s tournament when they meet the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday (10h40). Aside from heavy losses against the Blues and the Crusaders, the Cheetahs have lost four of their six matches to date by six points or less.


Whilst they have played some good rugby at times, the Cheetahs’ discipline has cost them dearly in three of those four losses. If they can focus all their energies on the play and shore up their leaky defence they may have a chance of an upset.


Another team that is looking for its first win is the Highlanders, who travel to Hamilton to face the Chiefs on Saturday (06h30).

 

The young and inexperienced Highlanders team has also dished up some good rugby in recent weeks and face a Chiefs team that has been erratic, and extremely fortunate, in grinding out three wins from six starts so far. It will no doubt be another hard and gritty all-New Zealand encounter.

 

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