Minimal Changes for Lions

The Cell C Sharks team named to take on the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Friday evening shows just two changes to last week’s side for this important Vodacom Super Rugby derby match.

There were some encouraging signs last week that the Cell C Sharks were about to assert themselves and dominate territory and possession, but frustration with closing out the opportunities created. This will have been a major focus in preparation for the Lions this week.

Up against a team who love to run the ball, the Cell C Sharks defence will certainly be tested, although it is in this facet that the team cannot be faulted. We have conceded just nine tries in six matches, by far the tournament’s leading team in this department and mixing great defence with finishing off opportunities created will be the recipe the team hopes to accomplish.

Head coach Robert du Preez has made just two changes to last week’s side, one upfront and one in the backline.

The loss of Akker van der Merwe to a three-week suspension has necessitated a change in the front row, with Kerron van Vuuren starting and Fez Mbatha coming onto the bench as cover at hooker.

Despite his relative youth (23 years of age), van Vuuren will have the country’s most experienced Vodacom Super Rugby player packing down beside him (and a fellow Bok in Coenie Oosthuizen on the other side of the front row).

Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira will start this crucial match and make national history when he becomes the most capped South African rugby player in the competition. This will be his 157th appearance, overtaking the former record-holder Adriaan Strauss.

Curwin Bosch replacing Aphelele Fassi at fullback is the only other change to the starting XV.

On the bench, Juan Schoeman comes in for Khutha Mchunu while JJ van der Mescht (like Mbatha, another player from last year’s triumphant Cell C Sharks Under 19 campaign) is poised to make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut, replacing Gideon Koegelenberg as cover at lock.

Friday evening’s clash kicks off at 19.10pm.


Cell C Sharks

1. Beast Mtawarira
2. Kerron van Vuuren
3. Coenie Oosthuizen
4. Ruben van Heerden
5. Hyron Andrews
6. Luke Stringer
7. Jacques Vermeulen
8. Daniel du Preez
9. Louis Schreuder (C)
10. Robert du Preez
11. Makazole Mapimpi
12. Andre Esterhuizen
13. Lukhanyo Am
14. Lwazi Mvovo
15. Curwin Bosch

16. Fez Mbatha
17. Juan Schoeman
18. Thomas du Toit
19. JJ van der Mescht *(Debut)
20. Philip van der Walt
21. Grant Williams
22. Kobus van Wyk
23. Aphelele Fassi