Flyhalf Rob du Preez and wing Makazole Mapimpi have been included in the Sharks’ starting lineup for Saturday’s Super Rugby opener against the Lions at Ellis Park.
Coach Robert du Preez has opted for a mix of youth and experience for his side’s first match of the season. Lock Ruan Botha resumes the captaincy.
In the backine, Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi and Lwazi Mvovo form the back three, André Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am are the preferred centre pairing, and Du Preez and Cameron Wright the halfback-axis.
Among the forwards, Keegan Daniel, Jacques Vermeulen and Philip van der Walt complete the loose trio, locks Stephan Lewies and Botha team up in the second row, while Thomas du Toit, Franco Marais and Juan Schoeman scrum down in the front row.
Players on the bench include Akker van der Merwe, Beast Mtawarira, Dan du Preez and Curwin Bosch.
‘This squad has worked extremely hard in the pre-season and what’s especially pleasing to see is the vibe and excitement in the group,’ Du Preez said.
‘Every player was given an opportunity during the warm-up games and so many of them put their hands up, which made it extremely difficult to decide on our match-day 23.
‘Naturally, the guys who have been left out will feel desperately disappointed as they have all put in the hard yards.
‘I stressed the fact that this campaign is going to be a squad effort and every guy will be called upon, at different stages, to contribute to the team’s goals.’
Saturday’s match kicks off at 17:15.
Sharks – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (c), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Tendai Mtawarira, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Curwin Bosch.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images