DURBAN - Veteran Ruan Pienaar is back at scrumhalf for the Sharks after an 11-year absence for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship match against Munster in Cork.
The 37-year-old Cheetahs star is on loan to his former team as they start a brand new chapter for South African rugby in the northern hemisphere.
Coach Sean Everitt has stuck with the same pack of forwards that lined up against the Bulls in the Currie Cup final, while the only other change to the starting XV sees Boeta Chamberlain named at flyhalf after the departure of Lionel Cronje following his short-term stint with the Durban side during the Currie Cup.
Cronje has returned to his club in Japan.
Interestingly, Curwin Bosch continues at fullback instead of returning to his old position of flyhalf.
There is a welcome return from injury for the lock duo of Hyron Andrews and Ruben van Heerden and the pair have been named on a forward dominated, 6-2 split bench.
Prop Thomas du Toit is expecting a huge onslaught from the Irish team but warns that his side won’t be holding back either, with both sides looking to impose themselves physically.
“They’re a physical side, all Irish sides are, but that doesn't mean that South African sides are not as physical, it’s definitely going to be a tough game of rugby with physicality at the front and centre. We as South Africans don’t want to disappoint as far as physicality goes.”
The Munster coach is the former Bulls assistant Johann van Graan and Du Toit admits that there are going to be similarities between Munster and the Pretoria team but explains their well-roundedness makes them a very dangerous opponent.
“Munster have a good kicking game and will look to play in the right areas of the field, but when they need to put the ball through phases, they can do that. The big challenge for us is going to be stopping their momentum throughout the game.”
Kick-off is at 8.35pm (SA time)
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Werner Kok, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Khwezi Mona
Substitutes: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Mpilo Gumede, 20 Ruben van Heerden, 21 Hyron Andrews, 22 Sanele Nohamba, 23 Jeremy Ward