URC – Preview – Several Scottish Internationals Will Test Hollywoodbets Sharks In Durban


The Hollywoodbets Sharks will be hungry for a victory when they host Edinburgh at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday at 15:00 (SA Time).

After getting a taste of a victory last week against Ulster they will want to take full advantage of the fact that the Scots will play in vastly different conditions to that which they are used to, and who will feel the pressure to remain in the top eight after suffering a defeat against the DHL Stormers last week.

Edinburgh may boast a better attack, but the teams are not far off on defence, which is something the visitors will want to capitalise on in a desperate attempt to stage a dramatic comeback after a disappointing start to the competition.

Interestingly, both the Hollywoodbets Sharks’ victories this season were at home, while the biggest defeat on their home patch was by four points, which will motivate them immensely to come out on top this weekend.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks will look to build continuity from last week’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory over Ulster.

Head coach John Plumtree has made five changes to his team, beginning with the powerful front row of Ox Nche in place of Ntuthuko Mchunu and Vincent Koch getting his first start after making his debut last week, with Bongi Mbonambi completing an all-Bok front row.

Tighthead prop Vincent Koch explains in the build-up to the match that while they’ve looked at their opposition and worked on a plan for the game, their focus has really been on themselves.

“Edinburgh have a completely different team this week to the one that played the Stormers where they rested a number of their Scottish internationals,” he points out.

“Although we’ve analysed them, we looked at ourselves first and how we as a team can get better. We want to deliver the best performance we can, for the full 80 minutes.

“It’s going to be tough, especially upfront, they have loads of international players and we know it’s not going to be easy, especially after their defeat to the Stormers. They’ll be disappointed with that result and will want to rectify that against us.”

In other changes, Emile van Heerden replaces Gerbrandt Grobler in the second row while James Venter makes his return and Phepsi Buthelezi shifts to eighthman in place of George Cronje who suffered a disappointing injury last week

In the only change in the backline, Werner Kok replaces the injured Eduan Keyter on the wing.

Scotland stars Duhan van der Merwe, Pierre Schoeman, Ewan Ashman and Jamie Ritchie all return for Edinburgh.

The quartet returns from Six Nations duty to feature in a starting XV that contains one further change from last weekend, with centre Chris Dean replacing Mark Bennett who remains in concussion protocol.

Head Coach Sean Everitt said: “It’s great to welcome back some more of our Scotland internationalists. Guys like Jamie [Ritchie] and Pierre [Schoeman] bring a lot of quality and experience to the pack, and they’ll be raring to go after getting a bit of time off after the Six Nations.

“We’ve spoken this week about remaining resilient and sticking to our game plan while staying strong mentally when coming under pressure.

“Sharks are strong at home but we’re ready for the challenge and look forward to the opportunity of representing our city and fans while here on South African soil.”

Van der Merwe returns in the back-three alongside winger Jake Henry, a try scorer on his debut in Cape Town last weekend, and full-back Wes Goosen.

Matt Currie and Dean link up in the capital midfield as scrum-half and skipper Ben Vellacott combines with stand-off Ben Healy.

In the forwards, hooker Ashman packs down alongside Schoeman and WP Nel up front.

The aforementioned Nel announced his decision to retire from rugby at the end of the season earlier this week, after becoming only the third player in club history to reach 200 appearances against DHL Stormers last weekend.

Locks Jamie Hodgson and Sam Skinner complete the tight-five while club centurions Ritchie, Hamish Watson (openside) and Viliame Mata (number 8) form an experienced back-row unit.

Centre James Lang, named among the replacements, is in line to make his 50th appearance.


Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter, 5 Emile van Heerden, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Corne Rahl, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Ethan Hooker.

Edinburgh: 15 Wes Goosen, 14 Jake Henry, 13 Matt Currie, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Ben Vellacott (c), 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jamie Hodgson, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: 16 Dave Cherry, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Cammy Scott, 23 James Lang.