JOHANNESBURG – When you ask two of the Lions’ most seasoned players to describe the Sharks, the one word that pops up immediately is “physical”.
So, expect a bruising, no-holds-barred game when the teams meet in a Super Rugby match in Durban this weekend when the competition resumes after the June Test break.
“No one will want to miss this one... both teams need the points and you know when you’re up against the Sharks it’s going to be a physical encounter,” said lock and stand-in captain Franco Mostert.
And utility back Ruan Combrinck added: “The Sharks are such a well-balanced team, they’re physical but they also have flair and fire-power at the back... but they’re the kind of team that will always bring out the best in one.”
Both men are suitably excited about a return to the Super Rugby competition, Mostert after playing for the Boks in all three Tests against England in June and Combrinck after an injury-interrupted season.
“It helped that I didn’t play in the first Test in June against Wales (in Washington) and was able to rest a bit there,” said Mostert. “Also, we’ve got a bye next week (before the Lions’ final league game against the Bulls) so it’s not too bad... we’ve got two games before the play-offs and we need every point we can get right now.
“It’s just so nice being back here at the Lions, seeing your regular friends.”
Mostert added that he was more than happy to hand the captaincy back to fit-again No 8 Warren Whiteley, who is expected to play his first Super Rugby game since the end of March.
“I’ll give the captaincy back to Warren, no problem... and then I can concentrate on my own job,” chuckled the lanky lock. “Warren is a great team leader but I enjoyed the captaincy. I learnt a lot as captain and person and grew immensely. The guys around me made it very easy, but I feel it made me a more mature player and person as well.”
Mostert will come up against former Lions hooker and now Bok teammate Akker van der Merwe and, among others, the Du Preez brothers, Jean-Luc, Dan and Robert, on Saturday.
He said his new Bok friends could expect a big Lions performance.
“You’ve got the Du Preezs, Akker, Beast (Mtawarira)... all enemies on the field but friends off it. They’re all good players, but we need the points this weekend,” said Mostert.
Combrinck, a Bok starter just two years ago, is in a battle with new Bok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi and last year’s national No 11 Courtnall Skosan for a starting spot in the run-on team, and then there is still Madosh Tambwe to be considered for the team.
He may, however, step in for Dyantyi, who played all three Tests against England and may be rested this week, or coach Swys de Bruin may utilise the multi-talented player at fullback in place of Andries Coetzee.
Combrinck said he didn’t mind where he was selected.
“It doesn’t matter, I just enjoy playing and will do my best wherever the coach believes I can slot in. We are desperate for the points and won’t be taking our foot off the pedal at all,” he said.
Saturday’s key match at Kings Park kicks off at 5pm.