Durban - Experienced wing JP Pietersen will make his return from two months on the sidelines after he was declared fit to play for the Sharks when they face the Free State Cheetahs in a Currie Cup encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Springbok star has not played since featuring in the Super Rugby final in August, when he fractured his thumb, and he subsequently missed the entire Rugby Championship.
His return for the Sharks is one of three changes made by coach John Plumtree, who has shifted around his backline to bring Pietersen in on the wing.
After playing out wide last week, Paul Jordaan moves to centre and Meyer Bosman replaces Riaan Viljoen at flyhalf.
Scrumhalf Charl McLeod is also included in the run-on XV after playing in the shadow of the impressive Cobus Reinach in recent weeks.
The one change among the forwards sees Jandre Marais taking over at lock from Steven Sykes, while hooker Pieter Dixon also makes a start after he avoided any further sanction following his red card against the Blue Bulls last week.
The Sharks must win the match if they want to keep alive their hopes of a semi-final, while victory is essential to the Cheetahs’ playoff aspirations.
“We know we’ve come unstuck against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the past,” said assistant Sharks coach Hugh Reece-Edwards.
“But we’ve also learnt how to get a winning result there in recent times.
“It’s a massive game for both sides and it should be a great clash.”
Free State Cheetahs:
15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Meyer Bosman, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 S'bura Sithole