DURBAN – Craig Burden is poised to make his return to Vodacom Super Rugby action after leaving the Cell C Sharks in 2013, having been named on the bench for Saturday’s showdown with the Vodacom Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park.
The burly hooker who started his career as a centre, played for the Sharks between 2006 and 2013 before embarking on a five-year career in France, representing Toulon, Montpellier and Stade Français.
Coach Robert du Preez has made just two changes to the starting line-up this week, Luke Stringer replacing Phepsi Buthelezi at flank and Lwazi Mvovo coming onto the wing in place of Sbu Nkosi.
There is also a first call-up for Philip van der Walt who returned from Japan with an injury but is now back to full fitness and will join Burden in making an impact off the bench.
Stalwart prop, Beast Mtawarira stands on the cusp of making history as this week he equals retired Adriaan Strauss's record for being the most capped South African Super Rugby player.
After this match, the pair would have both featured in 156 appearances in the competition.
Strauss represented the Cheetahs and then the Bulls, but Mtawarira has accomplished this record for just the Sharks since making his debut in 2007 and will break the record South African record in his next appearance after this Saturday.
Reflecting on the Sharks’ victory over the Rebels last week, flank Jacques Vermeulen explains: “It was a full team performance last week, with the forwards and backs combining well together and that meant we played much better than the previous match.”
He admits that Saturday’s clash is going to require great patience if the team want to replicate last week’s success and put behind them the previous loss to the Bulls.
“One of our strongest points as a team is when we hold on to the ball, but it’s something that frustrates us when we don’t, so it’s definitely something we’ll focus on this weekend. If we’re able to keep the ball and play in the right places on the field, we will be dangerous.”
After winning the first-round clash 37-14, some pundits might be tempted to back the Bulls to win again. But they’re coming off a demoralising loss while the Sharks have a morale-boosting win.
The Sharks team is: