Cape Town – The Sharks have made the big decision to throw their ‘B team’ into action for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against Connacht in anticipation of next week’s Champions Cup showdown with Bordeaux.
The Durban side confirmed on Friday that director of rugby Neil Powell himself has also remained behind to oversee preparations for the Bordeaux encounter at Kings Park – as well as the following week’s Harlequins match in London – with Currie Cup head coach Joey Mongalo taking charge of the side for the Connacht game in Galway (7.15pm SA time kickoff).
Most of the big names that starred in last week’s 47-20 victory over the Bulls are being kept in cotton wool in Durban, with just two survivors from that starting line-up at Kings Park – centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg and wing Marnus Potgieter – being retained for the Connacht game at The Sportsground.
Experienced lock Reniel Hugo takes over the captaincy from Siya Kolisi, and despite all the changes, it is still a formidable Sharks side in Galway.
Fullback Anthony Volmink has been around the block for a long time, Janse van Rensburg will bring his cut and thrust in midfield alongside Murray Koster, and scrumhalf Cameron Wright will be a guiding hand for young flyhalf Nevaldo Fleurs.
The unrelated Venter loose forwards, Henco and James, know how to sniff out turnovers at the breakdowns and carry strongly on attack, while Hugo will have usual blindside flank Thembelani Bholi as his lock partner.
The front row of Ntuthuko Mchunu, Fez Mbatha and Carlü Sadie may not be established Springboks like Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Thomas du Toit, but they don’t need to stand back for anyone in the scrums or tight loose.
There are three potential debutants on the bench in the shape of lock Ockie Barnard, loose forward Corne Rahl and utility back Ethan Hooker, but more experience too in the shape of hooker Kerron van Vuuren, Bok scrumhalf Grant Williams and flyhalf Lionel Cronje.
15 Anthony Volmink 14 Yaw Penxe 13 Murray Koster 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg 11 Marnus Potgieter 10 Nevaldo Fleurs 9 Cameron Wright 8 Celimpilo Gumede 7 Henco Venter 6 James Venter 5 Reniel Hugo (captain) 4 Thembelani Bholi 3 Carlü Sadie 2 Fez Mbatha 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Bench: 16 Kerron van Vuuren 17 Dian Bleuler 18 Khutha Mchunu 19 Ockie Barnard 20 Corne Rahl 21 Grant Williams 22 Lionel Cronje 23 Ethan Hooker.