A derby clash of business models

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Staff Writer

Joined: Nov 2016

The Sharks’ clash against the Lions on Saturday in the United Rugby Championship (URC) is as much a clash of cultures as it is squaring up of sides who have opposite views of how to achieve success and, perhaps, what that word represents.

The one is happy to conduct business from a well-heeled vantage point; the other content to operate on a shoestring budget.

The Sharks have been shooting for the stars; the Lions, in their ambition and results over the past few years have gone around in much lower orbit.

Yet it is the visiting team to Durban that has occupied the higher ground in this season’s URC.

They have recently maximised their playing resources better than the Sharks, who, to be fair, are still in the early stages of their overhaul. As a microcosm, one only needs to look at the players who have gone in opposite directions on the N3. The Lions have seen Sanele Nohamba and Marius Louw thrive in the rarefied air of the highveld, but the players who have gone in the opposite direction recently have made less of an impact.

Further down the road As a squad the Lions, it is worth noting, are a little further down the developmental road. The raids on their talent pool have slowed down significantly over the past year or so, allowing coach Ivan van Rooyen to bed down his systems. Still, they are some way off the top of the tree in the URC.

The Sharks have had a nightmarish start to this season’s URC and go into this clash at the bottom of the table. They showed their teeth against the Stormers last weekend, but they will need to show bite against the Lions.

They should have more fire in the belly this week with the return of Eben Etzebeth after a stomach bug. He will be partnered in the second row by another returnee, Gerbrandt Grobler, who is over an ankle injury.

Fez Mbatha starts at hooker with Kerron van Vuuren shifting to the bench, while Hanro Jacobs performs a similar swap with Coenie Oosthuizen at tight-head.

In the backline, the introduction of Grant Williams from the start will give the Sharks more zip, while Jaden Hendrikse’s deployment off the bench will bring them second half nous.

Frustrated last week “Last week’s game against the Stormers was frustrating. We could have won and felt there were more positives than negatives,” lamented Williams.

“We can now go out against the Lions and put in a performance our fans can be proud of, so we’re excited. We feel that as a group we’re close to delivering the performances we want to,” said the Bok utility back.

He has, however, healthy respect for Saturday’s visitors.

“The Lions are a physical team that like to move the ball around. They have a heavy pack so we can expect a physical battle. The thing for us it to get into our stride and give our fans a performance they deserve. But our squad is in a positive place and we’re building as a unit. Over the past few weeks we’ve moved forward, we’re much stronger now.”

The Lions, meanwhile, will see Ruben Schoeman return from his three-week suspension. Reinhard Nothnagel returns from injury but will be on the bench, while fellow lock Willem Alberts was not considered because of a pectoral muscle injury.

TeamsSharks — Aphelele Fassi; Werner Kok, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Francois Venter, Makazole Mapimpi; Curwin Bosch, Grant Williams; Phepsi Buthelezi, Lappies Labuschagne, James Venter; Gerbrandt Grobler, Eben Etzebeth; Hanro Jacobs, Fex Mbatha, Ox Nché.

Substitutes: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Joel Hintz, Corne Rahl, George Cronje; Jaden Hendrikse, Boeta Chamberlain, Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

Lions — Quan Horn; Richard Kriel, Henco van Wyk, Marius Louw (captain), Edwill van der Merwe; Sanele Nohamba, Morne van den Berg; Francke Horn, Ruan Venter, Emmanuel Tshituka; Darrien Landsberg, Ruben Schoeman; Asenathi Ntlabakanye, PJ Botha, JP Smith.

Substitutes: Jaco Visagie, Morgan Naude, Ruan Smith, Reinhard Nothnagel, Hanru Sirgel, JC Pretorius; Jordan Hendrikse, Rynhardt Jonker.


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