Huge challenge for Sharks
Cape Town - The Sharks will be looking to turn their season around when they face the Highlanders in their first Super Rugby tour match on Friday.
The Durbanites are currently languishing in 10th spot on the overall log with only four wins from 10 outings.
They have not won in Dunedin for five years, but will take heart from the fact that they have beaten the Highlanders four times in New Zealand over the years.
It’s only against the Blues, where they’ve won six out of eight in New Zealand, that the Sharks boast a better away winning record than against the team from Otago (four from eight).
The Sharks have won three from eight against the Hurricanes away, three from nine against the Chiefs and one from 12 against the Crusaders.
The Sharks also welcome back three Springboks to their starting line-up - JP Pietersen (outside centre), Stephan Lewies (lock) and Bismarck du Plessis (hooker).
Du Plessis is back after serving a four-week suspension for kicking an opposing player in the face. The Springbok hooker earlier this week also gave up the captaincy, insisting he wanted to prove his worth as a player again.
Lock Marco Wentzel therefore retains the captaincy for Friday’s clash.
Director of Rugby Gary Gold said it will be a tough encounter at Forsyth Barr Stadium (kick-off 09:35 SA time).
“The Highlanders have real game-breakers and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us on Friday," said Gold.
“I don’t think it gets much tougher than what we have coming on Friday. But we played some good rugby against the Bulls and the Lions and we want to carry that momentum into this game.”
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Pingi Tala'apitaga, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Jason Emery
15. Odwa Ndungane, 14. S’bura Sithole, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Willem Alberts, 7. Renaldo Bothma, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Marco Wentzel (captain), 4. Stephan Lewies, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Franco Marais, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Matt Stevens, 19. Mouritz Botha, 20. Etienne Oosthuizen, 21. Conrad Hoffmann, 22. Lionel Cronje, 23. Waylon Murray