Challenge Cup: All the team news from Sharks, Cheetahs and Lions
The Sharks are in need of a boost following their poor showing in the URC so far.
Grant Williams will wear the Sharks No 9 jersey on Saturday. Picture: Steve Haag Sports/Gallo Images
After basically hitting rock bottom in the first part of this year’s United Rugby Championship, the Sharks get an opportunity to set the record straight and show what they are actually capable of when they take on Pau in the first round of the Challenge Cup in Durban on Saturday, with kick off at 5.15pm.
John Plumtree’s return to coach the Sharks for a second time hasn’t started well; his team have won just one of their seven URC games and are down in 15th place in the standings. And not even the introduction of several World Cup winners could halt their slide after they crashed to a 44-10 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last Saturday.
But up against a new team from France in a new competition it can only be hoped that Plumtree and the Sharks players can find some confidence and form to put up a fight and even maybe get a win under their belts.
Pau from France
It won’t be easy though; Pau are a solid outfit who’re fourth on the log in the Top 14 and they’ve been competitive in European rugby since 1902 and now boast in their team Test cap record holder Sam Whitelock of New Zealand. Two other former All Blacks to have run out for them include Ben Smith and Conrad Smith.
In a boost for the Sharks, Kerron van Vuuren returns at hooker after a spell on the sidelines with injury, and so, too, does lock Le Roux Roets.
Ox Nche will also start in place of Ntuthuko Mchunu this week, while Grant Williams will wear the No 9 jersey, with Jaden Hendrikse shifting to the bench.
Marnus Potgieter also comes into the side on the wing, while Lionel Cronje and Ethan Hooker are new faces on the bench.
Lions and Cheetahs
The Lions meanwhile have picked a new-look team captained by hooker Jaco Visagie, for their Challenge Cup match against Perpignan on Sunday (5.15pm), where they will meet old team-mate Marvin Orie, fresh off his World Cup win with the Springboks.
It is a young Lions team, with the majority of first-choice players back home in Joburg preparing for next week’s second round match of the competition against Newcastle. The Lions go into the match in France on the back of two good home wins in the URC.
And, the Cheetahs are back in action as well, by invitation, taking on the URC team Zebre in Parma on Saturday (3pm). Ruan Pienaar is the standout player in their side and his team-mates will look to him to show the way.
Sharks: Aphelele Fassi, Marnus Potgieter, Lukhanyo Am (capt), Francois Venter, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Grant Williams, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Phepsi Buthelezi, James Venter, Corne Rahl, Eben Etzebeth, Coenie Oosthuizen, Kerron van Vuuren, Ox Nche. Bench: Dan Jooste, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Hanro Jacobs, Le Roux Roets, Jeandre Labuschagne, Jaden Hendrikse, Lionel Cronje, Ethan Hooker.
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Rabz Maxwane, Erich Cronje, Zander du Plessis, Boldwin Hansen, Jordan Hendrikse, Nico Steyn, Hanru Sirgel, Ruhan Straeuli, JC Pretorius, Raynard Roets, Etienne Oosthuizen, Ruan Smith, Jaco Visagie (capt), Corne Fourie. Bench: Morne Brandon, Morgan Naude, Conraad van Vuuren, Izan Esterhuizen, Travis Gordon, Johan Mulder, Gianni Lombard, Rynhardt Jonker/ Sibusiso Sangweni
Cheetahs: Tapiwa Mafura, Siba Xamlashe, Evardi Boshoff, Reinhardt Fortuin, Cohen Jasper, George Lourens, Ruan Pienaar, Jeandre Rudolph, Friedle Olivier, Gideon van der Merwe, Victor Sekekete (capt), Rynier Bernardo, Laurence Victor, Marnus van der Merwe, Schalk Ferreira. Bench: Louis van der Westhuizen, Alulutho Tshakweni, Hencus van Wyk, Carl Wegner, Daniel Maartens, Sibabalo Qoma, Rewan Kruger, Ali Mgijima