The Bulls top the SA conference with 24 points, but if they were to lose to the Sharks, currently in fourth, the coastal outfit would move to the same number of points. The Sharks come off two losses in a row against the Lions and the Crusaders – with the Kiwi side humiliating the Durban team on their home turf 52-10 two weeks ago. The Bulls, meanwhile, got their season back on track with a convincing 43-22 win over the Reds at Loftus Versfeld last week.
“We will have to show the ability to win away from home consistently if we want to remain in the competition,” said Spies.
The Sharks beefed up their front row with the return of Springbok prop duo Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira to their starting lineup, and Spies knew a tough task lay ahead for the Bulls.
“Durban is a tough place to play at and with so much at stake in the SA conference, we really cannot afford to play average rugby. This is going to be an epic local derby and we need to front up to it,” Spies said.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke had a personnel boost of his own with Handre Pollard returning to the number 10 position, hooker Adriaan Strauss starting and Lappies Labuschagne on the bench.
“It will be a massive challenge for us, so to have the likes of Handré, Adriaan and Lappies back is great,” said Ludeke.
“We will be facing a Sharks team that will be hurting and desperate to redeem themselves at home and I think it is fair to say that this will be our toughest assignment this year.”
In the midfield for the Pretoria side, Jan Serfontein was still missing with a hip flexor injury and Burger Odendaal will keep his place at centre in the Bok players’ absence.
Predicting a winner for the contest could prove difficult, as the Bulls have been poor away from home and the Sharks have struggled for consistency all season.