Boks rest as Masuku displaces Bosch in Sharks team

rugby01 March 2024 10:00
By:Gavin Rich
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Curwin Bosch @ Gallo Images

Hollywoodbets Sharks coach John Plumtree has selected former Toyota Cheetahs star Siya Masuku into the starting flyhalf role for Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

Masuku displaces Curwin Bosch from the team that started the recent loss to the DHL Stormers in Durban. It was a game that highlighted the dysfunction that results from Bosch’s tendency to line up too deep as well as his defensive vulnerability and there was a noticeable improvement when the more flat-lining Masuku came on in the second half.

Springbok scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse is understood to be another option that is being considered for the flyhalf position by the Sharks but, as anticipated, the halfback is one of several World Cup-winning Boks who have gone into their five weeks of mandatory rest following the Stormers game. Bosch is on the bench for this game, where he will back up flyhalf and fullback.

Grant Williams, who was resting when the Stormers came to town, is back in the No 9 jersey, with former Vodacom Bulls player, Tiaan Fourie, backing him up on the bench. Ox Nche and Makazole Mapimpi are other Boks who join the injured Eben Etzebeth and Vincent Koch on the sidelines, while regular captain Lukhanyo Am, who was initially believed not to be part of the national team resting protocols due to his late arrival at last year’s Rugby World Cup, is also not in the team this week.

In Am’s absence Bongi Mbonambi, who made his return from the bench against the Stormers but starts for the first time since being injured in the World Cup final, slots in as the team leader.

With the Boks absent, this is an opportunity for the Sharks’ depth to be tested, something that hasn’t happened since the World Cup winners returned to the selection mix in early December.

Players who are getting a great opportunity to show what they can do at this level include former Griquas wing Eduan Keyter, the talented young Ethan Hooker at outside centre, and Khwezi Mona and Tino Mavesere, the Zimbabwean opensider, who play off the bench. With Nche out, Ntuthuko Mchunu gets a much-needed opportunity to start at loosehead, while former Bok wing Aphiwe Dyanti will start in fellow Bok Mapimpi’s place on the wing.

On the face of it, the understrength Sharks team selection might challenge the view that the Sharks start favourites in this game but it is a chance for them to show they can do to the Lions what the Stormers did to them. The Stormers went to Durban two weeks ago without several stalwarts but their performance didn’t reflect that.

With the Round of Origin extending for another week, the Sharks announced their starting team with the players’ schools reflected next to their names.

Hollywoodbets Sharks team: Aphelele Fassi (Dale College), Eduan Keyter (Affies), Ethan Hooker (Westville Boys High), Francois Venter (Grey College), Aphiwe Dyantyi (Dale College), Siya Masuku (Piet Retief High School), Grant Williams (Paarl Gym), George Cronje (Grey College), Vincent Tshituka (Northcliff), James Venter (Glenwood), Gerbrandt Grobler (Affies), Corne Rahl (Hoer Landbouskool Oakdale), Coenie Oosthuizen (Grey College), Bongi Mbonambi (captain - St Albans), Nthuthuko Mchunu (Maritzburg College). Replacements: Fez Mbatha, Dian Bleuler, Khwezi Mona, Jeandre Labuschagne, Tino Mavesere, Phepsi Buthelezi, Tiaan Fourie, Curwin Bosch.