Preview: Sharks v Cheetahs
The Sharks will be out to cement their position at the top of the table when they host the Cheetahs in Durban on Friday.
These sides head into this encounter having experienced contrasting fortunes this season with the men from Bloemfontein, who were the surprise package in last year's tournament, well of the pace in the race for the play-offs this year and languishing in second last spot on the table.
The Sharks are, of course, brimming with confidence as they have only lost one match from seven this season - against the Bulls in Pretoria in Round Six - but they will not be underestimating the visitors, who, despite their lowly position in the standings, beat them 12-6 in Durban last year.
And apart from that result, the Sharks have two of their other six previous home games against the Bloemfontein-based franchise.
But that was then and this is now. Under former Springbok coach Jake White, the Sharks have made tremendous strides this season.
Despite injuries to key players, the Sharks are still the competition's pacesetters and the players who have come into the side as replacements have certainly made their presence felt.
One such player who has thrived under White's coaching is outside centre S'bura Sithole, who won the man-of-the-match award in the Sharks' 25-12 victory over the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.
This weekend another youngster, fly-half Tim Swiel, gets his chance to impress after Fred Zeilinga - who replaced first-choice pivot Pat Lambie a couple of weeks ago - was injured against the Lions.
It will be interesting to see how Swiel copes with the pressure of having Cheetahs and former Springbok tearaway Heinrich Brüssow - who makes his first appearance in the competition this year after a spell in Japan - chasing him down in this game.
Brüssow's inclusion is sure to bolster the Cheetahs pack and Cheetahs boss coach Naka Drotske believes he will make a big impact upon his return.
"We are glad to have him back in the thick of things, especially with Lappies Labuschagne out injured," said Drotkse.
"He (Brussow) will be a key factor at the breakdown area this weekend."
Brüssow faces a tough adversary in Sharks' openside Marcell Coetzee, who has impressed throughout the home side's campaign and has been amongst the leading foragers in the competition.
Defence has been facet of play in which the Sharks have shown the biggest improvement and Drotske believes his side will have to improve considerably in that area if they want to be successful against their hosts and during the rest of the competition.
"As a whole we don't play the same rugby as last year," he added.
"There are too many soft moments and we need to start at the basics again.
"Maybe sometimes we want to play too expansive and we need to hang onto the ball.
"But yes, there were too many soft moments and too many turnovers. Defence is a concern and you can't disagree with the facts and the stats."
<b>Form:</b> The Sharks have only lost once this season and bounced back from losing three weeks four weeks ago by winning twice either side of their bye week. They are also unbeaten at home. The Cheetahs haven't won since Round 2 and in their last six matches have drawn once and lost five times.
2013: Cheetahs won 12-6 in Durban<br>2013: Sharks won 29-22 in Bloemfontein<br>2012: Sharks won 34-15 in Durban<br>2012: Sharks won 34-20 in Bloemfontein
<b>Prediction:</b> The Sharks are on a high and will be keen to give their supporters a great send off before they depart for their overseas tour. The visitors will make a game of it but should be like lambs to the slaughter. <b>Sharks to win by 18 points!</b>
<b>Sharks</b> 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 SP Marais.
<b>Cheetahs:</b> 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Riaan Smith, 23 Raymond Rhule.
<b>Date:</b> Saturday, April 19<br><b>Venue:</b> Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein<br><b>Kick-off:</b> 15:00 (local, 13:00 GMT)<br><b>Referee:</b> Jaco Peyper (South Africa)<br><b>Assistant Referees:</b> Craig Joubert (South Africa), Marius Jonker (South Africa)<br><b>TMO:</b> Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)