URC – Preview – Hollywoodbets Sharks Play For Pride Against Scarlets


The Hollywoodbets Sharks, who will be playing purely for pride after having their quarter-final hopes dashed, will again lead the charge for the domestic franchises when they face the Scarlets in Llanelli on Friday at 20:35 (SA Time).

The Hollywoodbets Sharks will target a victory against Scarlets, who trail them by two points on the table, to bounce back from their disappointing defeat against Glasgow, and they will draw inspiration from their attacking display, which saw them apply good pressure on the hosts, although a big talking point in the camp this week will be to improve their finishing as that cost them dearly last week.

Both teams have registered only three victories this season, but the Hollywoodbets Sharks boast a better attack and defence, and they will be mindful of the fact that if they replicate the pressure they created on attack last week and round off their chances, it could count in their favour as the Scarlets defence has been their weakness this season with 479 points conceded in their 14 outings to date.

The Durbanites will also give everything to finish their tour on a high and build good momentum before their EPCR Challenge Cup semi-final next weekend, followed by three home games after this round.

Lukhanyo Am leads a vastly experienced, Springbok-laden Hollywoodbets Sharks side.

After a week’s break, head coach John Plumtree has brought back many of his experienced players for this clash in Wales, looking for their leadership and ability to deliver a winning performance.

Phepsi Buthelezi, selected at flank this week, warns that they have plenty to respect as they go into this match against the Welsh.

“They’re a bit of a mixed bag, really good forwards, guys who have been around for a long time, they have a really good kicking game and they’re a well-coached team.”

Scarlets are two log points behind the Hollywoodbets Sharks but will relish the opportunity to have a go at the Durban side.

“They’ve been unlucky a few times this season with the results and they’ll want to get one over us, so it’s going to be a good challenge.”

Although much is being made of the Hollywoodbets’ historic EPCR Challenge Cup semi-final next weekend, Buthelezi is quite clear where the team’s attention is.

“Our focus is 100% on the Scarlets and what happens next week will be dealt with next week. In camp right now our only focus is to go out and perform really well against Scarlets.

“The focus now is on executing our processes and game plan. We want to better our performances in the URC because some of the results we got early in the season weren’t good enough and not up to our standard.”

Scotland international second row Alex Craig is ruled out with a hamstring injury so Morgan Jones comes into the Scarlets line-up.

Seventeen of the match-day 23 selected by head coach Dwayne Peel have come through the Scarlets pathway. 

Three of those, Ioan Nicholas, Tom Rogers and Tomi Lewis continue in the back three. Johnny Williams and Eddie James link up in midfield, while Sam Costelow and Gareth Davies make up the half-back pairing.
The all-Wales international front row of Kemsley Mathias, skipper Ryan Jones and Sam Wainwright pack down again, while 24-year-old Jones partners Sam Lousi in the boilerhouse. 

It will be a special day for the Plumtree family with Taine named at blindside flanker for the Scarlets and dad John coaching the Sharks. Dan Davis and Vaea Fifita make up the rest of the home back row.

There are a couple of changes among the replacements with prop Steff Thomas and scrum-half Kieran Hardy coming into the squad.

Head coach Dwayne Peel said: “We were obviously disappointed by the result in Edinburgh last weekend, especially after leading the game on the hour mark. We spoke about showing fight and playing with a bit of freedom and there were elements of that in our game. We need to stay in that fight for 80 minutes. This week, we have prepared for the best version of the Sharks, they can put out a Springbok pack if they want and that is a massive challenge and an exciting one. Every time you play a South African side it is going to be physical and you have to step up.”


Scarlets: 15 Ioan Nicholas, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Johnny Williams, 12 Eddie James, 11 Tomi Lewis, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Vaea Fifita, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Taine Plumtree, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Morgan Jones, 3 Sam Wainwright, 2 Ryan Elias (c), 1 Kemsley Mathias. Replacements: 16 Shaun Evans, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 Jac Price, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Ryan Conbeer.

Hollywoodbets Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Ethan Hooker, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Vincent Tshituka, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Emile van Heerden, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Corne Rahl, 20 Gerbrandt Grobler, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Francois Venter.