Sharks fringe players to state their case against Lions

Curwin Bosch of the Cell C Sharks challenged by Kade Wolhuter of the DHL Stormers in the first game of the Pro 14 Rainbow Cup played at the Cape Town Stadium

Former Free State flyhalf Siya Masuku will have a golden opportunity to displace Curwin Bosch (pictured) as the Sharks flyhalf in their United Rugby Championship clash against the Lions on Saturday. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 2, 2024


Former Free State flyhalf Siya Masuku will have a golden opportunity to displace Curwin Bosch as the Sharks flyhalf when he starts in the position in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship derby at Ellis Park.

The Lions beat the Sharks 20-18 in Durban last month, and coach John Plumtree has shaken the selection tree to produce a lively looking combination for the return fixture.

Masuku added energy to the Sharks when he came on as a second-half replacement against the Stormers and has been rewarded with a start. He’ll be partnered by livewire Grant Williams, so the halfback combination for the Sharks will be anything but dull.

Bok bruiser Bongi Mbonambi captains the side as Lukhanyo Am and a host of fellow Boks are being rested under national protocols. Those protocols open the door for fringe players to state their case and this Sharks side will be bristling with intent.

New blood set to make an impact

The newcomers include former Griquas wing Eduan Keyter, the exciting young Ethan Hooker at 13, and Tino Mavesere, the Zimbabwean flanker. With Ox Nche out, Ntuthuko Mchunu gets a rare chance to start at loosehead, while former Bok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi comes in for Makazole Mapimpi.

“We have Springboks resting, and a few injuries, so a few guys have a real opportunity in the pressure cooker environment that is Ellis Park against the Lions,” Plumtree said.

He said the Lions will be pumped for this fixture as they are desperate for log points as they try to break into the top eight and qualify for the play-offs.

“We know what mood they are going to be in. They are always hard to beat at Ellis Park. Up front is where we have to perform if we are to get on top of them,” Plumtree said.

“We want to play a good brand of rugby but we understand what the conditions are going to be like at 3pm on the Highveld.

“It will be a challenge for us and we need to ensure we play at the right tempo,” the coach said, hinting strongly that the Sharks will not be as cavalier as they have been in previous games.

“We are a side that creates a lot of attacking opportunities but we need to get more accurate in our finishing – that is what let us down against the Stormers.”

Whatever the result, Plumtree will know more about many players who have been waiting in the wings for a chance.

‘Keep aspiring to be better’

“This is a perfect opportunity for me to see a few boys who have not had a lot of game time. I want to see how they respond to pressure,” Plumtree said.

“This game is their chance to show me what they can do.”

“And as a team, it is another opportunity for us to keep aspiring to be better. We are not where we want to be in terms of results, but I’m pretty happy with a lot of our rugby and the way things are going.”

Sharks XV: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Eduan Keyter, 13 Ethan Hooker, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Grant Williams, 8 George Cronje, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Corne Rahl, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bongi Mbonambi (captain), 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.

Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Khwezi Mona, 19 Jeandre Labuschagne, 20 Tino Mavesere, 21 Phepsi Buthelezi, 22 Tiaan Fourie, 23 Curwin Bosch.

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