Three new faces in Sharks starting XV to face Bulls

Three new faces in Sharks starting XV to face Bulls

Three new faces will don the Black and White colours of the Sharks for the first time in their Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Durban this Friday.

James Venter
Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets

Springbok number 8 Sikhumuzo Notshe, livewire openside flank James Venter and powerhouse loosehead prop Ox Nche will all run out for the Sharks debut on Friday night.

Notshe and Nche have both had extensive exposure to Super Rugby, while Venter will earn his first Super Rugby cap against the Bulls.

The rest of the Sharks starting XV has a similar flavour to the team that bowed out in last year’s playoffs. Hooker Kerron van Vuuren and tighthead prop Thomas du Toit round off the front row, Ruben van Heerden and Hyron Andrews continue their flourishing lock pairing while Tyler Paul will operate at blindside flank.

The Sharks backline is brimming with Springboks, three of whom are World Cup winners. 

The experienced Louis Schreuder starts at scrumhalf alongside Springbok flyhalf Curwin Bosch. World Cup winners Sbu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi operate on either wings while Springbok centres Andre Esterhuizen and captain Lukhanyo Am renew their powerful combination in the Sharks midfield. Aphelele Fassi rounds off the backline at fullback - with a promising year ahead for the 2019 breakout star.

While the Sharks backline will no doubt prove to be a lethal weapon, all eyes will be on the ensuing forward battle on Friday night. South African derbies are typically bruising, physical encounters and the Bulls will look to upset the Sharks at the set pieces.

It’s a fact that Everitt conceded during his team announcement press conference on Wednesday. However the Sharks coach paid tribute to new forwards coach Brent Janse van Rensburg and the work he’s put in to get the Sharks pack into fighting shape for the 2020 season.

“Brent has been amazing from day one. He’s a very organised coach and he’s drilled the pack exceptionally well. There were areas of concern with our pack going into Super Rugby and we’ve ironed those out - notably our maul,” Everitt explained.

“We all know that mauls are difficult because teams work around it and the laws have changed around it to nullify the advantage that you get from them so we’ve worked at that. Our performance against the Stormers at Super Hero Sunday was an example of that, I thought our pack was outstanding in the first half. He’s worked tirelessly and the forwards have done the same and we believe that what some people perceive as our weakness will be a strength.” 

The inclusion of Venter and openside side flank has been a big talking point this week. Everitt has spoken at length about the Sharks’ lack of a dedicated fetcher and the amount of tries that the team conceded in 2019 from turnovers at rucks.

Everitt is hoping that Venter might prove to be the answer to a problem the Sharks have had since Marcell Coetzee left the side in 2016.

“In the past the Sharks have gone out for a dominant pack and have never really relied on an openside flank although there’s sixes that did play a partial role. I believe in an out-and-out fetcher, I believe we have to put pressure on the oppositions breakdown and if the majority of tries are coming from turnovers we need to do something about it. Hopefully the inclusion of James will help us in that department.” 

Nevertheless the Sharks are under no illusion that they will have to front up physically to close out the Bulls at Kings Park on Friday evening.

“I think it will be a traditional derby and we know what the Bulls will bring upfront. We’ve got to match their physicality and their set piece. If you look at the make-up of our team, it’s an exciting side which can play an exciting brand of rugby both on attack and defence,” Everitt said.

Kickoff is at 19h10.

Sharks team (15-1): Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Louis Schreuder, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Tyler Paul, James Venter, Hyron Andrews, Ruben van Heerden, Thomas du Toit, Kerron van Vuuren, Ox Nche.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Juan Schoeman, John-Hubert Meyer, Le Roux Roets, Henco Venter, Sanele Nohamba, Boeta Chamberlain, Jeremy Ward.

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