Rob du Preez has named a team to face the Kings this weekend that features seven changes in the starting line up, driven by a combination of injury and the need to rest players after Saturday’s bruising win over the Waratahs. 20-year-old flyhalf Benhard Janse van Rensburg will become the 239th Sharks Super Rugby player when he takes the field in the number 10 jersey and he’ll have a big task ahead of him if he hopes to replicate the feats of Curwin Bosch in that channel just a week ago.
Bosch, who came off the bench last week, is himself also promoted to the starting team, but will wear the number 15 jersey vacated by injured Frenchman Clément Poitrenaud. The final change to the backline sees veteran Odwa Ndungane (who made his Super Rugby debut way back in February 2005) start at left wing, replacing the rested Lwazi Mvovo.
Up front, there are more changes. Philip van der Walt’s unfortunate cheekbone injury paves the way for a first start for Jacques Vermeuelen, who will wear the number 6 jersey. Vermeulen has three caps to his name so far, all coming off the bench. Tera Mtembu captains a team that contains an otherwise unchanged loose trio and lock combination. The front row, though, is all new. Franco Marais is out for a week with a shoulder injury, while both Tendai Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen are rested. Thomas du Toit, Lourens Adriaanse and for Bok captain Chiliboy Ralepelle are the new starters at the scrum coalface.
There are fresh faces on the bench as well; hooker Stephan Coetzee and tighthead prop Johnny Meyer will have a bit of personal rivalry going, since whichever of them comes on first will become player 240. The likelihood of both making their competition debuts is strong. Juan Schoeman comes in for his first taste of action this season, while there’s a welcome return to the squad for Etienne Oosthuisen too; he’s served out his suspension and replaces the unlucky Jean Droste in number 19 this week.
Fans will be thrilled to the the “return of the Dan”, with coach du Preez’s son Daniel finally ready for rugby again after nine months out with a groin injury. The big unit wears jersey number 20, with his twin Jean-Luc, of course, again starting at blind side flank after a man-of-the-match performance last week.
Mike Claassens will get another break from his five kids as he covers scrumhalf, with Jeremy Ward again alongside him. Finally in the squad after a long absence is Garth April, who will provide valuable cover at both flyhalf and fullback.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhany Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Odwa Ndungane (vice captain), 10 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (capt), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Garth April