A Massive Battle Between Cell C Sharks And Harlequins Expected In Durban


Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi will lead a formidable Cell C Sharks side for this Saturday’s opening round Heineken Champions Cup clash with Harlequins at Hollywoodbets Kings Park at 15h00 (SA Time).

Former South African sevens head coach Neil Powell took charge of his first Sharks game last weekend and delivered a 25-10 win over the Ospreys.

Powell, the Sharks Director of Rugby, took control of the senior team from Sean Everitt after the side's comprehensive home loss to Cardiff (0-35).

Harlequins head to Durban following four straight wins in the Premiership. Alex Dombrandt, Oscar Beard and Nick David all found their way over the whitewash in the 13-19 win over Bath at the Rec.

The win at the Rec came after Quins dispatched Bath's West Country rivals Gloucester 21-12 at the Stoop the week before. 

The Cell C Sharks have named a Bok-laden side for Saturday's clash.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is joined by fellow Springbok Eben Etzebeth after the international duo missed last week’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship game following a heavy workload for the national side in their four-match Autumn International window in Europe in November.

There are numerous other Boks handily placed throughout the team as they look to get their first match of this new competition off to a winning start. 

This is a new and decisive test for the South African sides who have not had a taste of Heineken Cup rugby in the past, but the good showing of the local teams in last year’s and again the current VURC tournament reflects their readiness to play, compete and succeed at this level.

With Etzebeth back in the starting line-up, Vincent Tshituka will revert to the loose forward role he played previously, alongside Kolisi and Phepsi Buthelezi. Powell has retained much of the same backline as last week, with the only change seeing Werner Kok replacing Marnus Potgieter on the wing.

Harlequins’ starting XV sees one change to the side that claimed a gritty victory over Bath in the Gallagher Premiership seven days ago, with England international Joe Marchant returning to join Andre Esterhuizen in the midfield. After his first start at outside centre in the Premiership last week, Oscar Beard reverts to a spot amongst the Impact Players.

Esterhuizen returns to Kings Park for the first time since leaving the Sharks in 2019 to join Harlequins. The giant centre will line-up against many fellow Springboks, but also a former Harlequins teammate in Australian international Ben Tapuai, who will start as Esterhuizen’s opposite man for the first time since helping Harlequins to lift the 2020/21 Premiership title.

In their debut seasons in the Famous Quarters, lock Irne Herbst and wing Josh Bassett will make their first appearances for Harlequins in the Champions Cup, having previously featured in the competition with their former teams. A competition debut will come for hooker George Head from the bench, with the Academy graduate looking to enter what is set to be a physical fixture from amongst the Impact Players.

Head Coach Tabai Matson said: “We’ve had some great training this week. After a long flight and a tough match against Bath, the boys have been in good shape and this week’s preparation has been a great block for us.

“We’ve had a fantastic week. We’ve been down to LIV Village and it was great to spend some time there as part of the Harlequins Foundation’s charity partnership throughout the Champions Cup. “We’re the first club to play in South Africa in this competition and we’ve made sure we enjoy the week here. It’s been a great build-up to this game.

“You can’t talk about this Sharks team and not discuss their physicality and the pressure they bring at the set-piece. It’s been crucial to our preparation this week and they are areas we have to be able to compete in.

“Their team is full of Springboks and they’ll be wanting to impress in their first encounter in the Champions Cup. There are lots of reasons to be excited this week.”

Prediction: Cell C Sharks by 3

Cell C Sharks: 15. Boeta Chamberlain, 14. Werner Kok, 13. Francois Venter, 12. Ben Tapuai, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Curwin Bosch, 9. Jaden Hendrikse, 8. Phepsi Buthelezi, 7. Vincent Tshituka, 6. Siya Kolisi (c), 5. Gerbrandt Grobler, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Carlu Sadie, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 1. Ox Nche. Replacements: 16. Dan Jooste, 17. Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18. Khutha Mchunu, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21. Grant Williams, 22. Lionel Cronje, 23. Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

Harlequins: 15. Nick David, 14. Cadan Murley, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Josh Bassett, 10. Tommy Allan, 9. Danny Care, 8. Alex Dombrandt (c), 7. Will Evans, 6. Jack Kenningham, 5. Irne Herbst, 4. Dino Lamb, 3. Wilco Louw, 2. Jack Walker, 1. Joe Marler. Replacements: 16. George Head, 17. Fin Baxter, 18. Simon Kerrod, 19. George Hammond, 20. Tom Lawday, 21. Lewis Gjaltema, 22. Oscar Beard, 23. Will Edwards.