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It may not be the start of the road to United Rugby Championship (URC) redemption but the Sharks are in desperate need of a win over the Stormers in Durban on Saturday.

They have thoroughly underwhelmed in the competition with just one win in nine starts but they have an opportunity to lift themselves off the bottom of the points table, and metaphorically the floor, with a win over their coastal rivals.

The injection of Springboks, excluding influential lock Eben Etzebeth, who is out injured, may help revive the Sharks’ fortunes in what could be a huge boost of morale for the team and confidence in the franchise.

The Sharks’ owners and fans are desperate to see a turnaround and a win over arguably the most consistent team in the URC will go a long way to changing course. Despite their encouraging form in the Challenge Cup, another URC defeat will put the Sharks under intense scrutiny.

Unlike the Sharks, who will have some of the cavalry restored, the Stormers will be without Damian Willemse, Manie Libbok and Evan Roos, who are under SA Rugby-decreed mandatory rest. Their absence may shorten the Stormers’ stride in attack but in new recruit Wandisile Simelane the visitors may unleash a player that could bring a fresh dimension to their ball-in-hand endeavours.

The Stormers, however, may have to adopt a more pragmatic approach with ball in hand in muggy Durban. Their superior game management has stood them in good stead in derby matches and they again may have to lean heavily on that skill this weekend. Without Libbok and Willemse, however, that is easier said than done.

In Johannesburg, the Lions will set about the task of applying the finishing touches on a job they thought they had completed in Pretoria at the end of January. They suffered an agonising last-minute defeat to the Bulls but they have the opportunity to claw back lost ground at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Being more relentless at the set piece is an area of focus for the home side who are desperate not to let the Bulls off the hook again.

A win is crucial for the Lions if they are going to sustain their challenge for a place in the knock-out rounds for the first time in the URC. Having said that, the 10th placed Lions could catapult into fifth if results elsewhere go in their favour this weekend. That, however, will require many stars to align.

Defeat could see them slip down to 12th with a congested mid-table to negotiate back into the play-off spots.

If the Bulls felt they didn’t have sufficient thrust in attack in their last match at Loftus Versfeld they should not have the same complaint, with game-breaking back-liners Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie likely to return to the side this weekend. That will place an even bigger obligation on the Lions forwards to deny the Bulls quality possession at source.

The return of the competition this weekend will arrive with a twist. URC teams will be sporting their school or club colours in the first of two special “origin rounds” where the players’ rugby roots will be remembered and celebrated.

Rounds 10 and 11 of the inter-hemisphere competition will be dedicated to unearthing, showcasing and celebrating the diverse backgrounds and locations of the URC playing group, with the players set to wear their school or club socks, while fans attending the games are also encouraged to wear their school or club jerseys or socks.

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