Preview: Chiefs v Sharks

The Chiefs will be keen to continue with their impressive form when they host a rejuvenated Sharks side in New Plymouth on Friday.

The home side are the form team in the competition and showed in their 28-27 victory over the Hurricanes last weekend that it will take a special effort to beat them.

Their attacking play has been superb throughout the campaign and despite losing experienced campaigners like Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam to the All Blacks Sevens side they have found capable replacements in players like Seta Tamanivalu and Taleni Seu, who have come to the fore with some superb performances.

Another player, who has played phenomenally well is full-back Damian McKenzie. The 21-year-old has an excellent skill-set and is one of the tournament's leading goalkickickers.

But despite, the emergence of up-and-coming stars like the abovementioned trio, it's experienced campaigners like co-captains Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden, who have been at the forefront of the Chiefs' superb form.

Despite being burdened with their captaincy roles, both players are in excellent form and will look to continue where they left off against the Hurricanes in this fixture.

The Sharks claimed a valuable 15-14 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin but despite that result, they have received plenty of criticism for their dour style of ply which has seen them scoring just 14 tries in eight matches.

By contrast, the Chiefs have scored a whopping 43 tries after the same number of matches. The Sharks' defence has been impressive this season but one feels that that won't be enough to be victorious against the attacking prowess of this Chiefs side, who are particularly lethal in counter-attacking situations.

The last time these team met:  The previous match-up between these sides was a close affair which the Sharks won 12-11. Hookers Hika Elliot and Bismarck du Plessis and Sharks centre Frans Steyn were all red carded in separate incidents inside the first half-hour in a drama-filled encounter. Sam Cane scored the only try of the game in the first half via a rolling maul. Pat Lambie scored all the Sharks points, via four penalties, and the Chiefs' other points were scored by Aaron Cruden, who succeeded with two three-pointers from the kicking tee.

Players to watch: Although his more experienced counterpart Tawera Kerr-Barlow is sidelined through injury, one-cap All Black Brad Weber has made the Chiefs' number nine jersey his own this season. Weber provides a crisp service to his outside backs and his sniping breaks makes him a potent threat on attack.

First-choice captain Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira had a meltdown against the Highlanders last weekend – when he questioned a decision made by referee Ben O'Keefe – and has paid the price as he was subsequently dropped for this encounter. This means that there will be plenty of pressure on new skipper Keegan Daniel. Although Daniel has captained the Sharks in the past his leadership skills will be in the spotlight while he is also expected to play a big role in the battle at the breakdown with Chiefs counterpart Sam Cane.

Team news: Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made five changes to his run-on side. In the forwards, hooker Hika Elliot and Japan Test prop Hiroshi Yamashita come in to the starting XV while Dominic Bird returns from injury to partner Brodie Retallick in the second row and Taleni Seu is promoted from the reserves to start on the blindside flank. There's just one change in the backs with Anton Lienert-Brown returning from injury to start at inside centre.

Sharks boss Gary Gold has rung the changes to his starting line-up. Cobus Reinach is out through injury which opens the door for Michael Claassens. Likewise, with Philip van der Walt having returned home from tour, Daniel du Preez reverts to the number eight position. Up front, there is a new front row with Dale Chadwick replacing Tendai Mtawarira, Franco Marais making way for Kyle Cooper and Lourens Adriaanse and Coenie Oosthuizen swapping jerseys.

Form: The Chiefs have won seven from eight matches this season and beat their neighbours, the Hurricanes 28-27 in what was arguably the match of Round Nine. The Sharks claimed a morale-boosting 15-14 victory over the defending champions last weekend after losing their three previous matches against the Crusaders, Lions and Blues.

Prediction: The Sharks' triumph over the Highlanders would have boosted their confidence but they face a formidable Chiefs side, who have the ability to score tries from anywhere on the field. Chiefs to win by 12 points.

Previous results:

2015: Sharks won 12-11 in Durban
2013: Chiefs won 37-29 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 37- 6 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 18-12 in Durban
2011: Chiefs won 15-9 in Hamilton
2010: Chiefs won 19-18 in Durban

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Sam McNicol, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Kane Hames, 19 James Tucker, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Shaun Stevenson

Sharks: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Joe Pietersen, 23 Odwa Ndungane

Date: Friday, 29 April
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Kick-off: 19:35 (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Angus Mabey
TMO: Glenn Newman