Form and history will favour The Sharks, who come off three back-to-back victories and who have won six of the last eight matches between the sides dating back to the 2010 competition.
But the Vodacom Blue Bulls also come off a morale-boosting 52-10 victory against Griquas and will be aware of the fact that another defeat could dash their semifinal hopes.
The forward battle is expected to take centre stage given the quality of both team’s forwards, however, should the match open up it could be thrilling as they both boast exciting backs. The Blue Bulls, in particular, will have to maintain a similarly high standard on defence to that which they displayed last week and protect their ball in contact to prevent The Sharks from using their impressive attacking skills to dominate proceedings.
Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar made three changes to the starting team that thumped Griquas with Springbok wing Bjorn Basson named on the left wing after being released from the national team, while hooker Bongi Mbonambi and prop Frik Kristen replace Bandise Maku and Werner Kruger respectively.
Basson’s presence, in particular, will serve as a welcome boost with the team under pressure to win to stake a claim for a semifinal berth.
The Sharks, meanwhile, have named veteran looseforwards Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes in their loose trio alongside captain Keegan Daniel, while they welcomed back Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee from the national team and back Louis Ludik from a well-deserved rest.
The clash will mark special milestone for Daniel, who will earn his 100th Currie Cup cap, and Botes, who will match Helgard Muller’s record of 142 Currie Cup matches.
According to rugby365.co.za the Blue Bulls have had a tough season but they could prove something of a banana skin for the Sharks as the Durban side looks to secure a home semifinal in Pretoria.
The knock-out phase of the competition has effectively already begun for the Bulls, so they will be desperate in front of their home crowd.
Their emphatic performance in Kimberley last week certainly made the Sharks sit up and take note, so while they may be at different ends of the table, this one is by no means cut and dried.
Sharks forwards coach Brad Macleod-Henderson knows that the first challenge will be to physically confront what will be a fired up Bulls side.
"It's going to be another tough game against the Bulls away from home, they'll be desperate to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the play-offs," he said.
Sharks backline coach Sean Everitt echoed those sentiments and warned that his side will have to be on top of their game.
"The Bulls put in an incredible performance against Griquas on the weekend. No-one else has been able to put that kind of score on them this year, and in Kimberley, Griquas are difficult so the Bulls were really good and we'll have to be at our best at Loftus on Friday," he said.
Matches between these teams are traditionally fierce and hard-fought up front, and with plenty at stake for both sides this one should be quite physical.
The Sharks will be keen to take some momentum into the knock-out stages just before their Boks return next week, and the Bulls are fighting for survival.
Prediction rugby365.co.za: It will be hard work against a motivated Bulls side, but the Sharks should edge a victory by about five points.
Vodacom Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe. Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Ulrich Beyers, 22 Sampie Mastriet.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick. Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Andrew James, 22 Louis Ludik.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Attie Buitendag
TMO: Deon van Blommestein