Sharks v Blues - Super Rugby match preview
Last Updated: 28/06/13 11:53am
The Blues take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday looking to keep their play-off hopes alive and end an unenviable Super Rugby record.
For Sir John Kirwan's troops have lost their last eight games against the men from Durban in a record stretching back to 2005 and nine matches without a win will surely end their season.
With the Chiefs out of sight at the top of the New Zealand conference, the Blues are hoping to grab one of the three wildcard spots on offer and will be targeting a four-try bonus point win in the game, which is being shown live on Sky Sports 3HD at 14.00 BST.
In team news, All Blacks Rene Ranger and Keven Mealamu will start from the bench after only arriving in South Africa days after the rest of the squad due to international commitments.
For the Sharks, coach John Plumtree's premature departure has stolen the headlines in recent days, with the Kiwi paying the price for a poor season as new CEO John Smit wasted no time in making decisive decisions.
But, on a more positive note for stand-in coaches Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards, the Sharks' injury list is at last decreasing.
The hosts will need the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Butch James, Louis Ludik and Cobus Reinach to come out with all guns blazing on their return from injury.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludick, 12 Butch James, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Danie Mienie/Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Jaco van Tonder
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements:16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Kane Barrett / Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Rene Ranger.
Super Rugby 2013 Round 18
The Bulls all but wrapped up the SA conference after completing a clinical 48-18 victory over the Southern Kings.
A last-gasp try from Riaan Viljoen saw the Sharks beat the Blues 22-20 and dent their visitors' play-off hopes.
South African conference leaders the Bulls take on the struggling Southern Kings in the Super XV on Saturday.