Durban — The Sharks team to play the Stormers in Durban on Saturday will be boosted by Springboks Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi and despite what both teams will tell the media, that is bound to add some spice to this juicy United Rugby Championship encounter.
The highly experienced Bok pair missed the Sharks’ victory over the Lions last week because they were completing a conditioning programme as they were a week behind the rest of the squad after having needed an extra week off in December, but now they are both in the Sharks team that has been running — and perspiring extensively in the humidity — at Hollywoodbets Kings Park this week.
Kolisi will take over from James Venter at openside flank and at hooker, Mbonambi will come in for Kerron van Vurren.
For so long in their careers, it seemed that Mbonambi, who last week turned 31, and Kolsi (30) would play out their careers at one union — the Stormers — but the acquisition of the Sharks by an American consortium changed that.
Entertainment giants Roc Nation are part of that consortium and it was not long before they “suggested” that two of their clients — Kolisi and Mbonambi — move up the coast from Cape Town to Durban to avoid a Roc Nation conflict of interests…
It also should not be forgotten that the Americans first knocked on the door of Western Province when they decided they wanted to venture into South African sport, and the principle reason they did that was because of the marketing potential of Springbok poster boy Kolisi, only for Western Province to dawdle and procrastinate so feebly that they turned their attention to the Sharks, who welcomed them with open arms.
And with the (rugby) mountain having shifted to Durban, Kolisi and Mbonambi soon followed suit.
For so long it was the Cheetahs that found their player base raided by the Sharks but in recent years the Sharks’ net has turned profitably towards the Cape. Prominent players that have been starring for the Sharks over the last few years include former captains in lock Ruan Botha and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder before Springbok No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe made a much-publicised move from the Stormers to the Sharks and was followed by hooker Dan Jooste.
It has not all been one-way traffic, though.
It still hurts the Sharks that having secured Pieter-Steph du Toit from his school days and then helping him become a star, he then returned to his Cape roots and as a Stormer grew into the best player in the world in 2019.
Similarly, the Sharks brought Evan Roos to Durban straight out of Paarl Boys High but once he had completed his apprenticeship at the Shark Tank, the barnstorming No 8 returned to the Cape and is now a vital part of the Stormers and will be a key weapon for them on Saturday.
If you ask Kolisi and Co and the Stormers themselves, they will play down the threat of needle between old teammates on Saturday, but we are not going to buy it.
For instance, let us hope that the SuperSport mics pick up the exchange between Mbonamnbi and his old understudy at the Stormers, Scarra Ntubeni when they pack down for the first set scrum…