As anticipated Cell C Sharks coach Neil Powell has wasted little time in bringing back his Springboks at the conclusion of the resting protocols and national camp that ruled the marquee players out of the action for the last two months.
Skipper Siya Kolisi, centre Lukhanyo Am, wing Makazole Mapimpi, scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, lock Eben Etzebeth, loosehead prop Ox Nche, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and tighthead prop Thomas du Toit will all be playing their first games since January when the Sharks face Scarlets in a must in match in Llanelli on Saturday.
The return of the Boks transforms the Sharks pack in particular, and while Kolisi captains the side, Etzebeth has quickly become the talisman and enforcer for the Durban team. The Sharks will be depending heavily on Etzebeth and the other Boks to turn their recent iffish form around, something that is crucially necessary as the Sharks continue to flirt with possibly missing out on qualification for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
They are currently seventh on the URC log, which is the last position that currently qualifies for Champions Cup qualification because a Welsh team is guaranteed entry into the European tournament. Cardiff are currently the Welsh Shield leaders and are outside the top eight.
In addition to the eight current Boks in the starting line-up, and you can make that 10 if you include centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg and flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who have played minimal international rugby but have been capped, there are additional Bok representatives on the bench in the form of Ntuthuko Mchunu, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and scrumhalf Grant Williams. Backline reserve Ben Tapuai has played for the Wallabies.
This is the last away game in the URC for the Sharks. After they return to South Africa and complete their Champions Cup round of 16 and hopefully quarterfinal games that follow this round of URC clashes, they will finish off at home against Benetton and Munster.
Cell C SHARKS: Boeta Chamberlain, Werner Kok, Lukhanyo Am, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse, Phepsi Buthelezi, Vincent Tshituka, Siya Kolisi (captain), Emile van Heerden, Eben Etzebeth, Thomas du Toit, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche.
REPLACEMENT: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Carlu Sadie, Gerbrandt Grobler, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Grant Williams, Ben Tapuai, Thaakir Abrahams.