The Cell C Sharks take an almost unchanged line-up into Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash against Leinster, as they look to finish their three match European tour on a high.
It’s still early in the competition and the Cell C Sharks know they are not yet the finished product, but there is regular and meaningful improvement each week.
Assistant coach Warren Whiteley, speaking from the team’s base this week admitted that, “We’ve been working really hard over the last two weeks or so, we were disappointed in certain aspects of play in the first game [against Zebre] particularly, but we felt we made improvements against the Dragons.
“However, we haven’t reached the standards we’ve set for ourselves so there is an emphasis on improvements.”
There are just two changes to the starting line-up, both rotational, with Hyron Andrews and Reniel Hugo swapping jersey numbers in the second row, likewise Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Phepsi Buthelezi at eighthman.
With a Cell C Sharks loose-forward trio that leans towards mobility and athleticism, rather than big, heavy ball-carriers, Notshe fits the bill perfectly, alongside flankers James Venter and Dylan Richardson.
“As coaches, we’re really excited with what we’ve seen [with the loose trio] over the last couple of weeks, it’s been phenomenal, and we know there’s going to be even more improvement in that department as we progress in the competition.
“What’s most important for us is the cohesion of the players which is really important and that does take time, especially in a loose trio and they’ll find each other the more they play together.
“And we have our Springboks as well as guys coming back from injury who will join the squad. But it’s really all about cohesion, guys playing together and finding combinations that work best for the team.”
Although the weather in Ireland can be wet, for the Cell C Sharks, it’s more about how they want to play, rather than being dictated to by good or bad weather.
“We have a specific game model that we trust and believe in,” Whitely explained, “and we want to keep it simple. The boys will make certain decisions on the day and in the moment, according to our game model and the plan for that weekend.”
Looking at the opposition, he admitted that it’s going to be a real test for the Cell C Sharks, but a challenge they embrace fully.
“We know Leinster have a powerful pack and a very strong maul – amongst other things – and this week is another great opportunity for us to keep improving.”
Cell C Sharks
1. Ntuthuko Mchunu
2. Kerron van Vuuren
3. Thomas du Toit (c)
4. Justin Basson
5. Hyron Andrews
6. James Venter
7. Dylan Richardson
8. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
9. Grant Williams
10. Boeta Chamberlain
11. Thaakir Abrahams
12. Ben Tapuai
13. Rohan Janse Van Rensburg
14. Werner Kok
15. Aphelele Fassi
16. Dan Jooste
17. Dian Bleuler
18. Carlu Sadie
19. Reniel Hugo
20. Phepsi Buthelezi
21. Cameron Wright
22. Nevaldo Fleurs*
23. Marnus Potgieter
*Denotes possible debut for the Cell C Sharks, if the player comes on from the bench.