Four recently discarded Springbok players will add considerably to the Sharks attempts to get off to a winning start in the Absa Currie Cup this weekend.
The players – lock Johann Muller, No 8 AJ Venter, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and flyhalf Butch James – were all part of Jake White’s Bok camp and beyond, but have been released back to their provinces to get more game time.
It is a move Sharks coach Dick Muir has welcomed, while Muller is keen to pull the black and white jersey on again. “I’m looking forward to the game and I’ll be taking some of what I learned with the Boks into the match,” Muller told keo.co.za.
“Winning our home games is of vital importance and getting off to a winning start will be a huge boost. But at the moment we are just concentrating on one game at a time.”
The match at the Absa stadium, kicks-off at 7.10pm on Friday and a home win is essential if the Sharks are to challenge for their first title in a decade.
“We had a good run at home in the Super 14 so hopefully we can take that into the Currie Cup. We need to be dangerous at home if we hope to do well overall,” added Muller, who just two weeks ago made his Bok debut on the same ground.
Muir has included two players in his starting line-up who will be making their Sharks debuts – fullback Carl Bezuidenhout and loosehead prop Kees Lensing, with two more, JC Strauss and Ryan Kankowski on the bench.
James has recovered from injury again and will play in the pivotal No 10 jersey alongside exciting scrumhalf Pienaar. With captain Venter at No 8 it is a powerful axis in a crucial area. James needs nine more points to reach 350 Currie Cup points.
Sharks team v Lions:
15. Carl Bezuidenhout, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Grant Rees, 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Adrian Jacobs, 10. Butch James, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 8. AJ Venter (captain), 7. Jacques Botes, 6. Warren Britz, 5. Johann Muller, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Danie Saayman, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Kees Lensing.
Replacements: 16. Jody Jenneker, 17. JC Strauss, 18. Solly Tyibilika, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Scott Mathie, 21. Gcobani Bobo, 22. Brett Hennessey.
By Andrew Hollely