URC Preview – A Humdinger Awaits In Durban


The Hollywoodbets Sharks and Emirates Lions will kick off 2024 with a bang in Durban on Saturday, 6 January with a postponed Round 8 United Rugby Championship fixture.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks will take the field with a sense of desperation to sway their fortunes in the competition, after bagging only one win in their opening seven matches, and with their backs against the wall, they will play with the attitude that they have nothing to lose, but rather everything to gain.

Although they beat Section Paloise in their EPCR Challenge Cup opener, they will be keen to bounce back from defeats against the Toyota Cheetahs and DHL Stormers a week ago.

The Durbanites will target their game against the Emirates Lions as vital to earn a valuable home victory, but with the Emirates Lions having proven their competitiveness by securing four bonus points for losing by less than seven points and three points for four or more tries scored so far in the competition, it is expected to be a humdinger of a match.

Following two weeks off, the Emirates Lions will be eager to pick up where they left off after a bonus-point win against Newcastle Falcons in the Challenge Cup.

The Emirates Lions is in 12th place on the United Rugby Championship standings, with three wins in seven matches, while the Sharks are languishing at the foot of the table after one win and seven losses in the competition.

Hollywoodbets Sharks head coach John Plumtree has made five changes to his starting line-up that lost to the DHL Stormers a week ago.

Fez Mbatha comes in at hooker with Kerron van Vuuren shifting to the bench, while Hanro Jacobs replaces Coenie Oosthuizen who has carried a massive workload over the past two months.

After missing last week’s clash with the Stormers, Eben Etzebeth is back from a stomach complaint and his partner in the second row will be Gerbrandt Grobler who takes over from Emile van Heerden.

Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse swapping scrumhalf duties is the only change to a settled backline.

Emirates Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen made three changes to his starting line-up.

In the only change up front Willem Alberts is replaced by Ruben Schoemn. There were two changes made at the back. Edwill van der Merwe returns on the wing replacing Rabz Maxwane while Henco van Wyk replaces Rynhardt Jonker who drops to the bench.


Hollywoodbets Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 James Venter, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Hanro Jacobs, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Joel Hintz, 19 Corne Rahl, 20 George Cronje, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

Emirates Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Richard Kriel, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw (c), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Sanele Nohamba, 9 Morné van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Emmanuel Tshituka, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 PJ Botha, 1 JP Smith. Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morgan Naudé, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Hanru Sirgel, 21 JC Pretorius, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Rynhardt Jonker.