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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Beast boost for Sharks

The return of experienced Springbok front-ranker Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira is the headline change to the Cell C Sharks team for Saturday’s crucial Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders.

After managing to stabilise a bit and gain some breathing space with an important win over the Stormers in the coastal derby two weeks ago, the Sharks need to win this game so they can gain some momentum in what is becoming a tight challenge for wild card play-off places by finishing in the top eight on the overall log.

The Sharks also have an outside chance of catching the Lions in the South African conference race should the Johannesburg team drop their two matches in New Zealand and the Sharks continue to win. But with just two points separating the four teams behind the Lions on the log – remember the Jaguares are now starting to feature strongly too – the next few weeks are going to be critical.

So the Sharks will be pleased to have Mtawarira back from the injury that forced him to miss the last two matches. It will not have been lost on the Sharks players that the last time the Bok played for them he was an influential presence in the excellent performance against the Hurricanes. Although the Durbanites lost in Wellington, they were impressive for most of that game and should really have left New Zealand with two wins in two starts.

While not everything revolves around Mtawarira, when he is in the sort of form he was in during the New Zealand leg of the tour he is a player the rest follow. Coach Robert du Preez will be hoping he has a galvanising effect on a pack that was shaded in the forward battle by the Stormers last time out but which did much better than many would have anticipated in that game.

The Highlanders were poor in the scrums against the Bulls last week but the Sharks are expecting them to have turned around the problem areas of Loftus. There is an additional change to the Sharks front-row, with Akker van der Merwe replacing Chiliboy Ralepelle at hooker. There is also what has been described as a rotational change at lock, with Tyler Paul coming in on off the bench for Stephan Lewies, who changes places with the former Southern Kings utility forward.

Cell C Sharks team:15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo


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