Cell C Sharks coach Joey Mongalo has recalled the players who got his team to second on the Currie Cup log for Saturday’s semifinal against the Airlink Pumas at HollywoodBets Kings Park.
Mongalo made 14 changes to the team that beat the Fidelity ADT Lions in their penultimate Currie Cup league game for last week’s trip to Cape Town to play DHL Western Province, and now he’s made 14 changes again for the first playoff game. Just loosehead prop Khwezi Mona remains from the team that started in the 44-5 defeat at the DHL Stadium.
That does not mean though that all the regular United Rugby Championship frontline players who played last week have dropped out of the group. For instance, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Curwin Bosch are part of the reserve bench, and Carlu Sadie continues in his role as a bench player, as does Tiaan Fourie.
Last week’s selection was always a risk, for although the Sharks looked like they had powered up for the Cape Town trip on paper, in reality most of the players who faced Province had been doing conditioning training in the weeks that separated the Sharks’ last URC game against Leinster from the start of the buildup to the league season finale.
The defeat in Cape Town did cost the Sharks as they surrendered top spot on the log to the Toyota Cheetahs, but there is still a chance of a home final for the Durbanites if they beat the Pumas, who arrive as the defending champions, and the Vodacom Bulls turn the tables on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the other semifinal.
If you take away the rest week they were given when the other players went to play against WP, the Sharks' combinations boast a lot of continuity and they will be confident they can beat a team that they’ve beaten twice this season already, albeit by the narrowest of margins each time.
Cell C Sharks: Nevaldo Fleurs, Yaw Penxe, Murray Koster, Alwayno Visagie, Aphelele Fassi, Lionel Cronje, Bradley Davids, Henco Venter, Vincent Tshituka, James Venter, Reniel Hugo (captain), Corne Rahl, Khutha Mchunu, Fez Mbatha, Khwezi Mona. Replacements: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Carlu Sadie, Ockie Barnard, Marco de Witt, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Tiaan Fourie, Curwin Bosch.