The Sharks have picked a formidable line-up for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against the Lions at Ellis Park, with no less than six Springboks set to be in action.
Bok centre Lukhanyo Am will captain the side in the absence of Siya Kolisi, and he’s joined in the backline by fellow Boks Makazole Mapimpi (11), Sbu Nkosi (14) and Aphelele Fassi (15).
Flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain and scrumhalf Grant Williams form the halfback pairing, while Samoan-born former Wallabies centre Ben Tapuai will make his URC debut at inside centre.
There are two more Boks amongst the forwards as well, with Thomas du Toit and Ox Nche joining Kerron van Vuuren in a formidable front row.
Fullback Fassi said the mood in the Sharks camp is high and they are eager to hit the ground running in the URC in the new year.
“It’s been a tough two weeks after the break and our focus has been on reflecting on phase one of the URC which was a difficult challenge playing overseas. The learnings taken from that into this phase of the URC has been good for us and we’re looking forward to getting out there and rectifying our mistakes and building from there,” Fassi said.
“The mood in the camp is relaxed, everyone is eager to get out there and play. There’s a lot of energy at training, the boys want to put in a good effort every session, even though it’s scorching out there. But everyone is happy that there are fixtures and that we’re able to play again.”
On the challenge of facing the Lions, Fassie added: “We know the Lions are full of intensity, but with that comes mistakes and one thing we’ve looked after is being able to capitalise on opportunities that we receive, so to convert four from five opportunities would be great. And then playing in the right areas of the field is something we want to achieve.
“We’re expecting a very fast game. They’re a team that loves to play with a lot of intensity and keep the ball in play and we’re looking forward to the game.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Jeandre Labuschagne, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Tito Bonilla, 23 Jeremy Ward
Date: Saturday, January 22
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge & Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Cwengile Jadezweni