Sharks Super rugby head coach Sean Everitt has named a team with one change to play the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in New Zealand’s southernmost Super Rugby city.
Sadly, try-scoring wing Sbu Nkosi has a minor niggle and will miss this game, handing newly-recruited Madosh Tambwe a debut start for the Sharks.
Two players are also set to achieve personal milestones in this game in captain Lukhanyo Am, who is set to play his 50th Super Rugby game for the Sharks (he already has 10 other Super Rugby caps for the Kings) and Craig Burden who will earn his 50th Super Rugby cap, if he comes off the bench.
Head coach Sean Everitt admitted that the win over the Bulls was important for the team to set the tone for the season, particularly before touring.
“It was a massive confidence booster,” he said of the 23-15 win at Kings Park on Friday evening.
“It was good reward for the players who worked tirelessly over the course of the pre-season. They’ve been amazing so it’s good that they put in a good performance, even if there were some errors, both teams made them in the tough conditions. So we’re happy with how things went and it was great to get onto the plane with a win.”
Given the heat and humidity and the consequent difficult handling, playing in New Zealand represents the perfect opportunity at this time of year to play some exciting rugby without the risk posed in Durban during February.
“The guys are enjoying the conditions here,” said Everitt. “We play this match against the Highlanders under cover, so the conditions will suit us. I think the guys will find it refreshing although this first week is tough because we’ll have just one training session due to the travel. But we are happy with all the prep we did in pre-season, and the fact that the injury toll wasn’t serious outside of a minor niggle that Sbu has, is a big plus.”
Although Everitt admitted that the team’s win over the Bulls had not been error-free, constant improvement and above all consistent performances was what they will be working towards this season.
“We’ve said before that this team needs to be more consistent, we’ve been criticised for that, so consistency is key. Going overseas for four weeks is tough, we know that, but this team has a vibe about it and they are really keen to take up the challenge.”
1. Ox Nche, 2. Kerron van Vuuren, 3. Thomas du Toit, 4. Ruben van Heerden, 5. Hyron Andrews, 6. James Venter, 7. Tyler Paul, 8. Sikumbuzo Notshe, 9. Louis Schreuder, 10. Curwin Bosch, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 13. Lukhanyo Am ,c), 14. Madosh Tambwe, 15. Aphelele Fassi
Replacements : 16. Craig Burden, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. John-Hubert Meyer, 19. Le Roux Roets, 20. Henco Venter, 21. Sanele Nohamba, 22. Boeta Chamberlain, 23. Jeremy Ward