Sharks super rugby head coach Robert du Preez has named a team with two changes to the starting line up for their match on Saturday against the Bulls at Kings Park in Durban.
Luke Stringer comes in to replace Phepsi Buthelezi at flank and Lwazi Mvovo (pictured) comes onto the wing in place of Sbu Nkosi.
There is also a first call-up for Philip van der Walt who returned from Japan with an injury but is now back to full fitness and will join former Shark Craig Burden in making an impact off the bench.
Burden started his career as a centre, played for the Sharks between 2006 and 2013 before embarking on a five-year career in France, representing Toulon, Montpellier and Stade Français.
Stalwart prop, Beast Mtawarira stands on the cusp of making history as this week he equals retired Adriaan Strauss’s record for being the most capped South African Super Rugby player.
After this match, the pair would have both featured in 156 appearances in the competition.
Strauss represented the Cheetahs and then Bulls, but Mtawarira has accomplished this record for just one team, the Sharks since making his debut in 2007 and will break the record South African record in his next appearance after this Saturday.
Reflecting on the Sharks’ victory over the Rebels last week, flank Jacques Vermeulen explains: “It was a full team performance last week, with the forwards and backs combining well together and that meant we played much better than the previous match.”
He admits that Saturday’s clash is going to require great patience if the team want to replicate last week’s success and put behind them the previous loss to the Bulls.
“One of our strongest points as a team is when we hold on to the ball, but it’s something that frustrates us when we don’t, so it’s definitely something we’ll focus on this weekend. If we’re able to keep the ball and play in the right places on the field, we will be dangerous.”
In other words, continuing where his team left off in the second half against the Rebels when they pressured the mistakes, attacked with purpose and kept the opposition scoreless.
We didn’t quite have things go our own way in the previous match against the Bulls, Handre Pollard’s boot, together with pressure defence from his team-mates, kept the Sharks pinned back which is something they will look to avoid this time round.
“They look to frustrate you in your own half, it’s going to be a territory-based match this weekend,” he explains. “That’s going to be a massive part of the game.”
After winning the first-round clash 37-14, some pundits might be tempted to back the Bulls to win again. But they’re coming off a demoralising loss while the Sharks have a morale-boosting win.
“The Bulls will come to Kings Park looking to resurrect their campaign after last week, but we pride ourselves on our efforts to win every home game. This is a big game for us. Every team wants to make their home ground a fortress; it’s important for us to win this weekend.”
15. Aphelele Fassi 14. Lwazi Mvovo 13. Lukhanyo Am 12. Andre Esterhuizen 11. Makazole Mapimpi 10. Robert du Preez 9. Louis Schreuder (c) 8. Daniel du Preez 7. Jacques Vermeulen 6. Luke Stringer 5. Hyron Andrews 4. Ruben van Heerden 3. Coenie Oosthuizen 2. Akker van der Merwe 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements 16. Craig Burden 17. Thomas du Toit 18. Khutha Mchunu 19. Gideon Koegelenberg 20. Philip van der Walt 21. Grant Williams 22. Kobus van Wyk 23. Curwin Bosch