Young speedster Aphelele Fassi returns to the Sharks starting line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby match against the Rebels at Jonsson Kings Park, slotting in at fullback for Rhyno Smith.
Fassi missed the Sharks’ last match, the heavy defeat to the Bulls, because of concussion but now resumes at fullback, with Curwin Bosch once more confined to the bench.
The other change to the backline is Springbok Andre Esterhuizen back at 12 for suspended Jeremy Ward, although the burly Esterhuizen would have returned anyway after being given something of a rest by playing off the bench against the Bulls.
At openside flank, last year’s Sharks Under 19 captain, Phepsi Buthelezi, will make his run-on Super Rugby debut after impressing of the bench in all four of the Sharks’ games this season. He replaces Wiaan Vosloo.
There is also a debut for former Bulls and SA Under 20 lock Ruben van Heerden, who had an excellent cameo off the bench at Loftus when he came on for Gideon Koeglenberg, with the latter dropping to the bench.
Among the substitutes, former Western Province flank Luke Stringer, who joined the Sharks during last year’s Currie Cup campaign, is another set for Super Rugby debut.
Former Sharks stalwart Craig Burden was in line to make his comeback after being named as hooker cover, only to pick up an injury at training yesterday and he is replaced by young Fez Mbatha.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtwarira.
Subs: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenburg, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Curwin Bosch.