Sharks need win to avoid pressure on the road

It's only game five in the Southland Sharks' attempt at a National Basketball League title defence but tonight's showdown against Hawke's Bay in Invercargill looms as a telling one.

The early-season form suggests Wellington look almost certain to be among the teams in the top four play offs later in the season.

At the other end, the Super City Rangers, Canterbury Rams and Taranaki appear to be the teams that will be weighted towards the bottom of the table during the majority of the season.

If that scenario is right, it leaves six teams vying for three playoff spots.

Two of those six teams are Southland and Hawke's Bay, and a win tonight for the Sharks is a must for many different reasons.

Momentum, confidence and belief are the sorts of words that would be bandied about if the Sharks can take their two-win, two-loss record and turn it into three and two tonight.

A win is also a must to ensure there is not too much pressure created in having to win a stack of games on the road.

Southland's progression to the playoffs last year was on the back of seven wins from eight games at home - to date this year they have a one-win, one-loss record.

As far as crowd numbers go, the Sharks have had encouraging showings in the first two games, with 2300 there for the opening game against the Otago Nuggets and 1750 for the second home game against the Super City Rangers.

Sharks general manager Jill Bolger was hoping for another big turnout, given the importance of tonight's game, but the indications were the numbers might be a little down.

''There are a lot of people away on holiday it seems, and we're in the middle of school holidays so I'm picking it might be a bit lower than we have had. I would be happy to get around 1500 at this time of the year when people are away,'' Bolger said.

Tonight's game will start at 7 o'clock