Dyantyi returns to Sharks team for Loftus battle

rugby30 November 2023 11:20
By:Gavin Rich
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Aphiwe Dyantyi @ Gallo Images

Aphiwe Dyantyi has been returned to the Hollywoodbets Sharks team for Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby championship derby against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus.

The Springbok comes back to complete an all-international back three with Aphelele Fassi and Makazole Mapimpi after missing last week’s good win over the Dragons with a minor injury. This week it is Werner Kok, who was good on the right wing last week, who is out with what has been described as a hamstring niggle.

Dyantyi, who was the World Rugby International Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2018 but was then ruled out of rugby for four years after testing positive for a banned substance, is the only member of the Sharks' starting team for the Pretoria game who did not start in last week’s 69-14 win over the Dragons.

Indeed, coach John Plumtree has stuck pretty much with the matchday 23 that did duty against the Welsh team, with the Dyantyi inclusion ahead of Kok being the only change, which shouldn’t be surprising given how that team hit its straps as the game progressed. Plumtree said he was expecting the returning Springboks to show initial rust and then start bedding in, and will expect even more of the players who did well a week ago in what amounts to a crucial game for both teams, but for different reasons, before the break for the Investec Champions Cup (and in the Sharks’ case Challenge Cup).

The decision not to change the team means that Ox Nche, the Bok World Cup-winning loosehead prop, will continue to reprise the role he plays at international level - meaning the Bulls are going to contend with his power scrummaging later in the game when they are tired and he comes off the bench.

Ntuthuko Mchunu, who Nche said during the week has made impressive improvements to his primary role as a prop after transitioning from being a No 8 at schools level, will wear the No 1 jersey and be the man initially tasked with blunting the power of the Bulls’ former Stormers and Harlequins tighthead Wilco Louw.

That is provided of course that Bulls director of rugby Jake White opts for Louw to start. The Bulls team will be announced on Friday.

Hollywoodbets Sharks team: Aphelele Fassi, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Francois Venter, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Phepsi Buthelezi, James Venter, Emile van Heerden, Eben Etzebeth, Coenie Oosthuizen, Fez Mbatha, Ntuthuko Mchunu. Replacements: Daniel Jooste, Ox Nche, Hanro Jacobs, Corne Rahl, Jeandre Labuschagne, Grant Williams, Boeta Chamberlain, Rohan Janse van Rensburg.