Williams’ electric pace can add bite to Sharks’ attack

Sharks scrumhalf Grant Williams could get the chance to showcase his kicking skills against Glasgow. Photo: BackpagePix

Sharks scrumhalf Grant Williams could get the chance to showcase his kicking skills against Glasgow. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 17, 2024


The Sharks may be out of the running for the United Rugby Championship play-offs, but Friday’s clash against the Glasgow Warriors (8.35pm kick-off, SA time) still holds great value for the Durban outfit.

John Plumtree’s team have rightfully focused all their energies on the Challenge Cup, where they will face Clermont Auvergne in the semi-finals on May 4 at the Twickenham Stoop in London.

That is their only path to next season’s Champions Cup, as they are languishing in 13th position on the URG log with just 18 points after three wins and 10 defeats.

But the Sharks are on a roll at the moment, having seemingly found their mojo over the last few weeks. They have recorded four victories in a row – last weekend’s 36-30 Challenge Cup quarter-final triumph over Edinburgh at Kings Park being preceded by wins over Zebre (47-3), Edinburgh (23-13) and Ulster (22-12).

Plumtree, though, said that he will “freshen up” the team for the Glasgow clash this weekend as “a few guys have had a big workload”.

But there are also some players who need game time before the Challenge Cup semi-final, particularly in what is likely to be slippery conditions at Glasgow’s Scotstoun Stadium on Friday night, despite rain not having been forecast.

The Sharks arrived in the Scottish city yesterday, and Plumtree will be mulling over the line-up that he will announce tomorrow.

One man who needs a start is Springbok scrumhalf Grant Williams. Despite enjoying a fruitful Rugby World Cup campaign last year, he is still behind Jaden Hendrikse – who was also in France – in the Sharks pecking order.

The 27-year-old Williams – who is from Paarl – has electric pace, which saw him run out at wing for the Boks at the World Cup.

But he needs to showcase his kicking skills against Glasgow in order to prepare for the Challenge Cup play-off, while his tactical approach will also be put to the test by a home side desperate for a victory in their race for a home URC quarter-final and semi-final.

In the same breath, it would be worth Plumtree’s while to bring back Curwin Bosch this weekend – but at fullback. Aphelele Fassi has been in outstanding form over the last few weeks and is the definite first-choice No 15, but Bosch’s big boot could alleviate some of the pressure on in-form flyhalf Siya Masuku.

Bosch also has a good turn of pace on the counter-attack from the back, and could provide the Sharks with a different weapon to unlock the Glasgow defence.

Among the forwards, Bok stars Ox Nche and Bongi Mbonambi should get a breather as well, with Ntuthuko Mchunu and Dan Jooste more than able replacements at loosehead prop and hooker, respectively.

Bok stalwart Eben Etzebeth is likely to be wrapped up in cotton wool this week as well, which should see promising young lock Corné Rahl line up in the No 4 jersey.