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Super Rugby preview: Sharks take on the Stormers at Kings Park
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Sharks will look to maintain their lead at the Super Rugby summit when they welcome the Stormers to Durban on Saturday.
Jake White's side currently hold a five-point lead over second-placed Waratahs, but that lead could have been eclipsed before kick-off with the New South Wales franchise taking on the Chiefs earlier in the day.
A run of just three wins from their last five matches has seen the Sharks' runaway lead shrunk and the competition blow wide open, with just nine points separating first and eighth with four rounds to play.
Both sides enter Round 16 on the back of victories, with the Sharks beating the Blues 29-23 in Albany while the Stormers registered a convincing 33-0 win over South African conference rivals Cheetahs.
Sharks director of rugby White has largely stuck with the same team for Saturday's clash against the Stormers at Kings Park, making just one change.
The return to action of Marcell Coetzee, who has recovered from injury, is well-timed and he is the lone change to the matchday 23 that overcame the Blues last time out.
Another win at this stage would prove hugely valuable to their title aspirations, but everyone acknowledges that the Stormers are a much better prospect than their table position suggestions.
"If you had asked at the start of the season which teams were going to be dangerous, everyone would have backed the Stormers," said White.
"They were good last year, they got to the Currie Cup Final, they are one team hard to break down, and that is a common thread that remains in their game.
"They didn't have a good run early on but they are definitely improving, they're playing better rugby now and their confidence will be much higher now that it was three or four weeks ago. I'm sure it will be another big derby game where we are going to have to play well."
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee will be without the injured Schalk Burger, meaning Duane Vermeulen will assume the captaincy from No 8.
Burger did not recover from a knock to his neck which he sustained in last weekend's win over the Cheetahs.
In other changes, Sailosi Tagicakibau starts on the left wing, with Siya Kolisi starting in the number seven shirt in the absence of Burger and Cheslin Kolbe shifts across to the right wing in place of Kobus van Wyk who is out of action for three weeks with a wrist injury.
Argentine lock Manuel Carizza returns to the fray for the first time since the end of February, having recovered from a wrist injury, whilst fly-half Demetri Catrakilis is back in the mix for the first time since March.
Sharks: 15 Marais, 14 Pietersen, 13 Sithole, 12 Jordaan, 11 Mvovo, 10 Steyn, 9 Reinach; 1 Mtawarira, 2 B du Plessis, 3 J du Plessis, 4 Oosthuizen, 5 Lewies, 6 Coetzee, 7 Mtembu, 8 Alberts.
Replacements: 16 Cooper, 17 Chadwick, 18 Adriaanse, 19 Kankowski, 20 Daniel, 21 McLeod, 22 Swiel, 23 Williams.
Stormers: 15 Taute, 14 Kolbe, 13 De Jongh, 12 De Allende, 11 Tagicakibau, 10 Coleman, 9 Groom; 1 Vermaak, 2 Fourie, 3 Cilliers, 4 Rhodes, 5 Botha, 6 Carr, 7 Kolisi, 8 Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16 Coetzee, 17 Sithole, 18 Dreyer, 19 Kleyn, 20 Carizza, 21 Frylinck, 22 Catrakilis, 23 Grant
You can watch Sharks v Stormers live from 6:10pm on Sky Sports 4HD
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|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Bulls|
|17:10||Stormers vs Sharks|
|Friday 13th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Blues|
|11:00||Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels|
|Saturday 14th March|
|03:30||Crusaders vs Lions|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Waratahs|
|08:40||Reds vs Brumbies|
|13:00||Stormers vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Sharks|
|Friday 20th March|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Hurricanes|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Lions|
|Saturday 21st March|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Cheetahs|
|15:05||Bulls vs Western Force|
|17:10||Sharks vs Chiefs|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|05:05||Waratahs vs Brumbies|
|Friday 27th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Melbourne Rebels|
|09:00||Reds vs Lions|
|Saturday 28th March|
|05:30||Chiefs vs Cheetahs|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Stormers|
|08:40||Waratahs vs Blues|
|15:05||Sharks vs Western Force|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Lions 19 - 22 Stormers|
|Bulls 43 - 35 Sharks|
|Melbourne Rebels 15 - 20 Brumbies|
|Chiefs 40 - 16 Crusaders|
|Friday 27th February|
|Cheetahs 25 - 24 Blues|
|Western Force 13 - 42 Hurricanes|
|Highlanders 20 - 13 Reds|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Sharks 29 - 12 Lions|
|Stormers 27 - 16 Blues|
|Reds 18 - 6 Western Force|
|Highlanders 20 - 26 Crusaders|
|Friday 20th February|
|Bulls 13 - 17 Hurricanes|
|Melbourne Rebels 28 - 38 Waratahs|
|Chiefs 19 - 17 Brumbies|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Waratahs 13 - 25 Western Force|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Bulls 17 - 29 Stormers|
|Sharks 29 - 35 Cheetahs|
|Blues 18 - 23 Chiefs|
|Friday 13th February|
|Lions 8 - 22 Hurricanes|
|Brumbies 47 - 3 Reds|
|Crusaders 10 - 20 Melbourne Rebels|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com