Sharks expect the Lions to go high tempo in Joburg

rugby28 February 2024 11:17
By:Gavin Rich
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Vincent Tshituka © Gallo Images

Vincent Tshituka has spent enough time being in the Emirates Lions change-room before a coastal derby to know what his former teammates will be cooking up for the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Saturday afternoon’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby in Johannesburg.

The flanker, who has also played in the Sharks second row since moving to Durban two seasons ago, has had an injury interrupted stint at his new franchise but after playing off the bench against the DHL Stormers two weeks ago there is a good chance he may have a starting role at Emirates Airlines Park.

It is a ground he knows well and they are also opponents he knows well, with his brother Emmanuel, who will join him at the Sharks next season, a kingpin for the hosts. Tshituka insists though there will be no brotherly love or friendship to the fore when the teams clash on Saturday and he expects the Lions to use the altitude to their advantage by playing high tempo rugby.

“With how things have gone for us this season, they’re definitely going to be in a place where they want to keep us down, they are not going to want to give us that breath of fresh air that we are so desperately looking for,” said Tshituka.

“For them, it’s always been a physical contest against the Sharks, it’s never been a game that’s let anyone down physically. That’s a big thing they’ll be emphasising, and also moving the ball. We are going up to Ellis Park (where altitude will be a factor), so they will be wanting to move the ball around a lot.

“They’re going to play a running brand of rugby and try to tire us out so they can take us on later in the game, I know that’s going to be a big aspect of their plan.”

Tshituka said he always enjoyed going back to his old home ground and added that the Lions will always have a special place in his heart, but that there’d be no space for any sentiment on Saturday.

“It’s special for me going back to play the Lions at Ellis Park, they’ve played a big part in my career and life. They will always hold a special place in my heart. But I am not going there on the weekend as a friend, I am going there to get the job done.”


The motivation to get the job done will only be accentuated by the fact he will be on opposing sides to his brother.

“It’s always an honour stepping out on the field with my brother, I cherish every moment, whether we’re in the same team on opposite sides,” said the 25-year-old.

“It brings out the best in me and adds that extra little bit of motivation for me to be at the top of my game.”

The Sharks head to Johannesburg second last on the URC log and also well behind the Lions, who still have something to play for as if they pick up some momentum from this point, they will feature strongly in the count-out for top eight places which signify Investec Champions Cup places at the sharp end of the season.

By contrast the Sharks are only playing for pride as their lowly position means their route back into the elite Champions Cup cannot come through the URC.

Their only remaining route into that competition is to win the EPCR Challenge Cup, something they have a chance of doing after topping their group in the pool phases.

However, the Sharks will have revenge on their minds after losing to a late Sanele Nohamba penalty in the Durban game early in the new year, plus the desperation of knowing that the pressure on them will remain intense until they shake off their current losing streak.

And with players on both sides who have swapped allegiances in recent years, with Nohamba and skipper Marius Louw a counter for the Lions to the Sharks’ former Lion, Tshituka, that is sure to add to the temperature when the game kicks off at mid-afternoon on Saturday.