Blues v Sharks
Eden Park, Auckland, Friday 5.35pm (AEST)
Last meeting: Round 2 2011 - Sharks 26 bt Blues 12 in Durban
Head-to-head: Played 15 Blues 4 Sharks 11 Drawn 0
Referee: Steve Walsh (NZL)
TV: Live, FoxSports 3
TAB Sportsbet: Blues $1.65 Sharks $2.15
Greg Growden writes: The Blues are aptly named. What a mess. The coach is in tears, players are talking about each other's portly shape, and they keep losing. Their performance against the Rebels last round was appalling, and the Sharks are ready.
AAP writes: It's topsy-turvy times at the Blues, with besieged coach Pat Lam coming close to tears this week after detailing the racist attacks that have been directed towards him and his family via social media. The Blues (one win, five losses) have clearly underperformed this season, but that doesn't excuse the taunts levelled at Lam, who played 34 Tests for Samoa and a solitary tour game for the All Blacks. Both teams enter this one on the back of disappointing losses, with the Blues succumbing to the Rebels 34-23 and the Sharks surrendering to the Hurricanes 42-18. The Sharks remain within striking distance of a finals spot, and will take some confidence from the fact they've won their past seven matches against the Blues.
BLUES: Rudi Wulf, Hadleigh Parkes, Benson Stanley, Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Chris Lowrey, Daniel Braid, Luke Braid, Liaki Moli, Filo Paulo, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau, Ali Williams, Peter Saili, Piri Weepu, Michael Hobbs, George Moala.
SHARKS: Riaan Viljoen, Louis Ludik, JP Pietersen, Tim Whitehead, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel (c), Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Anton Bresler, Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick. Reserves: Kyle Cooper, Wiehahn Herbst, Jandre Marais, Willem Alberts, Jacques Botes, Meyer Bosman, Frederic Michalak.