Brisbane - Tera Mtembu is back in the Sharks line-up, starting their opening Super Rugby match of the season and he’s raring to go after a tough two years where his career has been curtailed by a series of injuries.
He previously captained the side in the 2014 Currie Cup campaign and on Friday will be Pat Lambie’s vice-captain.
"It’s a great honour to be playing for our team again after a bad run of injuries over the last two years," he said from the Brisbane hotel where the Sharks await their clash with the Reds on Friday (kick-off is at 11:00 SA time).
"Being back after all this time away makes me appreciate being fit. When you’re outside, you understand how blessed you are to have this opportunity to do what you love. I’m really excited about playing again and hopefully I’ll take that chance with both hands."
Casting his eye to the opposition, to the Reds’ loose-forward trio and the return of experienced campaigner George Smith, Mtembu admits that the Sharks have a tough task on their hands.
"The Reds recruited well for this year, bringing in not only George Smith but also Scott Higginbotham, both of them seasoned campaigners," said Mtembu.
"But our focus isn’t so much on individuals, we know what we want to achieve and we’re just excited to be back on the park."
Although he has enjoyed leadership roles in the past, Mtembu admitted that being awarded the vice-captaincy for this match was an unexpected decision.
"It came as a surprise to me," he said.
"My main goal was just to get fit again, try stay injury free and play to the best of my ability. I will try help Pat (Lambie) as much as I can, although everyone is a leader in his own position."
He explained that a lot of the team’s focus has been on scrum dominance, and although it’s an area they have worked hard on leading into this match, it’s not something they have pinpointed for this match specifically.
"It will be our goal for every game, going forward. In saying that, the Australian teams are very street-wise, they’re smart, but we’ll be looking to focus on getting right what we’ve worked hard on leading into the competition. We would like to get a good start," Mtembu said.
Reflecting on Lwazi Mvovo reaching 100 caps, Mtembu admitted that he was thrilled for his team-mate.
"I am very chuffed for Lwazi, playing 100 times on the wing is a huge milestone. He’s played consistently for the Sharks which is an amazing achievement. He has a big influence on the team, as well as on me personally but I don’t think he realises what influence he has and energy he brings to the team. I’m very excited for him."
15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris
Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade
Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Adam
Korczyk, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1
James Slipper (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Markus
Vanzati, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Hendrik Tui, 21 James
Tuttle, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Izaia Perese
Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen,
11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie (captain), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu,
7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne
Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19
Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy
Ward, 23 Clement Poitrenaud
WATCH: TERA MTEMBU TAKES OVER SHARKS' SNAPCHAT ACCOUNT