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Inspirational Lukhanyo Am returns for the Sharks against Ulster

Lukhanyo Am makes his return for the Sharks against Ulster. Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Lukhanyo Am makes his return for the Sharks against Ulster. Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Published May 19, 2022

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Durban - The stakes are as high as they can get for the Sharks in their United Rugby Championship clash with Ulster in Belfast on Friday evening, with a home quarter-final the reward for the winner, and to that end, the return of the inspirational Lukhanyo Am is a significant boost for the Durbanites.

The Springbok No 13 slots straight into the starting line-up announced on Thursday morning by coach Sean Everitt but he has not been given back the captaincy and Thomas du Toit continues in that role.

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The idea behind that one is to allow Am to concentrate solely on his game — he last played for the Sharks in late February — while Du Toit has been doing a fine job in leading from the front.

Everitt has made just three changes from the last outing, a 41-21 penultimate round victory over Connacht at Hollywoodbets Kings Park at the end of April.

There is a new lock pairing of Ruben van Heerden and Reniel Hugo who come in for Le Roux Roets and Gerbrandt Grobler respectively, with just the one change to the backline where Am returns for Ben Tapuai at outside centre.

The pool stages of the tournament couldn’t be ending on a more dramatic note, with only Leinster having guaranteed their position at the top of the log, and just six log points separating teams two through eight.

Home ground advantage is key in any competition come the knock-out rounds, but so too is the reward that comes with winning your country’s Shield and for this reason, there will be no holding back from the Sharks.

“We’re currently sitting on top of the South African Shield and third on the log, so there is everything to play for,” Everitt explains.

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“We know what a huge challenge it is to go to Belfast to play at the Kingspan Stadium, but we do believe we have the ability and the players, as well as the coaching team, to go over there and do the job.

“It would be really good for us if we were able to come home and play in front of our fans at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in a quarter and semi-final.”

Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lhukanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Thomas du Toit (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.

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Subs: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Boeta Chamberlain.

@MikeGreenaway67

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