Cape Town - Despite just a four-day turnaround between Currie Cup games against the Blue Bulls on Wednesday and the Golden Lions on Saturday, head coach Robert du Preez has largely stuck with the same team that did such outstanding duty against the Bulls.
The forward pack, hugely dominant and called upon for more of the same against the Lions on Saturday, remains unchanged, while there are some changes in the backline.
A new halfback pairing featuring Cameron Wright at scrumhalf and Benhard Janse van Rensburg at 10 has been chosen, with Marius Louw coming in at centre to replace Jeremy Ward who wasn’t considered for selection due to laceration.
Odwa Ndungane who is playing his 100th Currie Cup game for the Sharks, comes in for Kobus van Wyk (who ties the knot this weekend) on the wing in the final change to the starting line-up.
There is a new face featuring on the bench, former Kings scrumhalf Louis Schreuder is named as replacement scrumhalf and will his debut for the Sharks.
A fantastic defensive effort on Wednesday will once more be required against the Lions, and although it wasn’t perfect, it was certainly the difference between the two sides.
“I’m proud of the boys and the guts they showed against the Blue Bulls,” said Du Preez.
“We did miss 40-odd tackles which wasn’t great, but that started with our bad exits and something we’re going to have to work hard on.”
He was also pleased with our attack which delivered the all-important bonus point, a rare occurrence against the Bulls - at Loftus.
“I thought we played really good rugby at times, just one or two offloads here and there that didn’t go to hand, but certainly I’m very pleased with our intent on attack.
“And I’m very happy with the four tries, it’s something we battled with in Super Rugby, I’m happy with where we are at this stage.”
Casting his mind to the Lions, did he believe there is revenge on the players' minds following the Super Rugby quarter-final loss?
“No, it’s not a big grudge match for us, we just want to build on the momentum that we’ve created, it’s a new game and history means nothing. It’s tough playing there but we’re up for it and looking forward to the challenge.”
The goal to disrupt the Blue Bulls set-piece was achieved and something we will look to be competitive in during the entire season. The forwards are gelling well and playing some courageous rugby which should bode well against the Super Rugby finalists.
“But we must improve our exit plays, those weren’t good enough and that put us under pressure. And we missed too many tackles, so that’s also a big focus of ours ahead of the match.”
Kick-off at Ellis Park on Saturday is at 19:30.
15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Antony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ryan Kankowski (captain), 7 Fabian Booysen, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4. Robert Kruger, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Corne Fourie
Substitutes: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Marco Janse van Vuuren, 21 Siya Masuku, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi
15. Garth April, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Marius Louw, 11. S’busiso Nkosi, 10. Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 9. Cameron Wright, 8. Tera Mtembu, 7. Jacques Vermeulen, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Ruan Botha (captain), 4. Tyler Paul, 3. Ross Geldenhuys, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Thomas du Toit
Substitutes - to be confirmed: Akker van der Merwe, Inny Radebe, Juan Schoeman, John-Hubert Meyer, Jean Droste, Louis Schreuder, Michael Claassens, Mzamo Majola, Wian Vosloo