There are four changes to the Cell C Sharks’ starting line-up for their Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Emirates Lions in Durban on Saturday, but director of rugby Gary Gold said he is trying to maintain as much consistency as possible despite their poor start to the season.
The Sharks went down to the Cheetahs in a shock result at King’s Park last weekend, and three of the four changes are injury-enforced.
The odd one out is captain Bismarck du Plessis’ return at hooker, which is a no-brainer after he withdrew shortly before the Cheetahs game with a shoulder problem.
Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda will make his SuperRugby debut as he comes in at lock for Mouritz Botha, the English international having fractured a cheekbone last weekend.
He won’t have “Beast” Mtawarira in front of him, however, as the loosehead prop suffered a torn calf against the Cheetahs and has been replaced by Dale Chadwick.
Wing S’bura Sithole twisted his ankle to rule him out of action, with veteran Odwa Ndungane coming in on the right wing.
“It was a very disappointing performance against the Cheetahs but we’re not going to hit the panic button. Making four enforced changes already means nearly 30% of your team has changed and I want to try and keep some consistency in selection,” Gold told The Citizen. “We’re backing the players to get it right this weekend and they’ve trained well.”
Gold also said the time was not quite right to rush loose forward Jean Deysel back into the starting line-up, despite his strong showing off the bench in the opening game.
“He’s very close, but getting back from Japan not that long ago, we just want to give him a slow entry back into SuperRugby and not throw him into the deep end. Another 30-35 minutes off the bench this weekend will be good for him,” Gold said.
The other places on the bench opened up by the injuries go to loosehead prop Thomas du Toit and powerful young centre Andre Esterhuizen.
Mtyanda, who moved to Durban from the Pumas last year, has leapfrogged the experienced Marco Wentzel, who is seen more as a number five lock and will continue to provide cover on the bench. Pieter-Steph du Toit is able to play in either second-row position.
Gold said Ryan Kankowski is back from Japan and in training with the Sharks, while Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen are going to be playing in a semi-final this weekend, with Sharks fans obviously hoping they lose so they can return as soon as possible to SuperRugby action.
Team: 15-SP Marais, 14-Odwa Ndungane, 13-Waylon Murray, 12-Heimar Williams, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Pat Lambie, 9-Cobus Reinach, 8-Tera Mtembu, 7-Renaldo Bothma, 6-Marcell Coetzee, 5-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4-Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis (capt), 1-Dale Chadwick. Replacements – 16-Kyle Cooper, 17-Thomas du Toit, 18-Matt Stevens, 19-Marco Wentzel, 20-Jean Deysel, 21-Conrad Hoffmann, 22-Fred Zeilinga, 23-Andre Esterhuizen.