A Highly Motivated Hollywoodbets Sharks Waiting For Connacht


The Hollywoodbets Sharks are back in Durban on Saturday at 17h00 with the sole aim of getting their Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign back on track when they welcome Irish side Connacht to Durban, where the hosts will be hoping to record their first win of the season.

It won’t be easy though, as the team from Galway, losing semi-finalists to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town last year, have started the season with three wins on the trot before a last-gasp defeat to Edinburgh last weekend.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks recorded an easy 41-21 win in Durban over Connacht in the opening season, but the Irish side know what it takes to win in South Africa after they beat the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg last season.

Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am has been selected. Am is the only player amongst the Springboks who has been released to return to action for the Hollywoodbets Sharks as the Durban side face their third Irish opponent in five weeks.

“Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch both have knee injuries,” head coach John Plumtree confirmed.

Casting his eye to Saturday’s opposition, Plumtree explained of Connacht that, “They’re another Irish side that is pretty experienced, they have a lot of URC caps amongst the forwards, so it’s going to be a great battle for our forward pack. They play dangerously, like all the Irish teams they’re very unpredictable, we will have to break them down. Defensively, it is going to be tough.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge for us, they’re a pretty consistent side, a real threat. We’re going to have to play really well and I’m hoping our energy for this first game back home is high, and that we get a good crowd that cheers us on.”

Irish international prop Finlay Bealham returns as Connacht made eight changes to last week's side.

There are two changes in the front row including Bealham who is set to play for the first time with the province since his return from the World Cup with Ireland.

Oisin Dowling and Joe Joyce are named in the second row, while the back row is the only unchanged line from last week's game away to Edinburgh with Cian Prendergast, captain Conor Oliver and Sean O'Brien all set to start again.

It's a new half-back pairing starting with Colm Reilly and JJ Hanrahan. For the fourth game this season Cathal Forde and Tom Farrell are paired up in the centre. Byron Ralston moves to the wing from centre where he's joined by Andrew Smith and Tiernan O'Halloran in the back three.

Commenting ahead of the game, head coach Pete Wilkins says:

“Any game away in South Africa is a massive challenge, and we will be coming up against a highly motivated Sharks team who will relish playing in front of their home crowd for the first time this season. That said, we have travelled and prepared really well for this encounter, and the whole squad is excited by the opportunity in front of us on Saturday.

The return of Finlay Bealham is timely, and he has brought great energy as well as international quality to the group. Elsewhere our team selection represents a blend of those that have delivered significant performances for us across the first four games of the URC season. The quality of our bench will be a crucial element in what we expect to be a physical and fast-paced game in hot conditions.”


Hollywoodbets Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Francois Venter (c), 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phendulani Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Emile van Heerden, 4 Corne’ Rahl, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu. Replacements: 16 Daniel Jooste, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Jeandre Labuschagne, 20 Tino Mavesere, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Cathal Forde, 11 Andrew Smith, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Colm Reilly, 8 Sean O’Brien, 7 Conor Oliver (captain), 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Oisín Dowling, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tadgh McElroy, 1 Denis Buckle. Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Darragh Murray, 20 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 John Porch.