Hollywoodbets Sharks coach John Plumtree has made just two changes to his starting line-up but is nonetheless using Saturday’s slightly less pressured Investec Champions Cup match against Oyonnax in Durban as an opportunity to improve his depth and offer playing opportunities.

While Springbok Eben Etzebeth will get a slight rest by only playing off the bench after his man-of-the-match performance against the Emirates Lions in last week’s narrow loss in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby at Hollywoodbets Kings Park, thus offering Corne Rahl a starting opportunity, it is on the flank that the most interesting change has been made.

James Venter moves to the bench for this game to enable young Zimbabwean-born flanker

Tinotenda ‘Tino’ Mavesere his debut appearance for the Sharks in an international competition.

Born in Harare, Mavesere, who is known as ‘The Driller’, was educated at the same famous Churchill High School that was the alma mater of Sharks and Springbok legend Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira. Masevere was lured to Durban a season or so ago after impressing for the University of Western Cape in the Varsity Cup.

His full name is Tinotenda Blithe Mavesere, and known back home in Zimbabwe by his middle name Blithe.

Two additional debutants can be found on the bench in the form of the talented former Airlink Pumas centre Diego Appolis, while former Windhoek Draught Griquas wing Eduan Keyter, who was recruited at the end of 2022 but suffered a long-term injury soon after moving to Durban, is alongside him among the reserves.

The Sharks currently sit on a record that reads played 10 and lost eight, but according to their in form wing Werner Kok they recovered from the disappointing defeat to the Lions by doing what all Durbanites should do in times of crisis when they want to feel less stressed – they went to the beach.

Former Springbok loose-forward AJ Venter once famously justified his move from Johannesburg to the Sharks by arguing in a court of law that he needed to be near the sea, and he won the case, so perhaps there’s something to be gained for the Sharks from having, according to Kok, spent Monday on the beach.


Sticking with the nautical theme, or maybe because he was inspired by the salt water, the former Blitzbok reckons the tide is soon going to turn for his team.

“We’re in a good space and ready for the week after the disappointment and hurt from a tough few weeks,” said Kok in an online press conference on Thursday.

“We feel we’re at the point where the tide is going to turn. The EPCR Challenge Cup gives us the opportunity to get into a proper position to play in quarters, semis and finals and this is a competition we’re really going at. We’re working hard at getting to the playoffs and making a success of the tournament. And we’re still alive in the URC too, we just have to make sure we win all our remaining games.”

Oyonnax come into this game having won less than half their fixtures in the French Top 14 and winless in the EPCR, so there shouldn’t be too much debate about the Sharks starting as red-hot favourites to win comfortably. However, that does not mean the Sharks will be underestimating their opponents and Kok reminded the audience that no French team should ever be written off.

“I think it’s going to be a loose game. We all know about the French flair. All their teams like throwing the ball around and playing an expansive game. But we know it’s going to be hard, the French forwards are tough and physical, very good at maul time and we’re going to have to up our game in the physicality stakes.

“It’s going to be a good clash though, one we want to win to get to go top of the pool and hopefully a final at the end of the competition,” he added.

Hollywoodbets Sharks team: Aphelele Fassi, Werner Kok, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Francois Venter, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Grant Williams, Phepsi Buthelezi, Lappies Labuschagne, Tino Mavesere, Gerbrandt Grobler, Corne Rahl, Hanro Jacobs, Fez Mbatha, Ox Nche. Replacements: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Khwezi Mona, Eben Etzebeth, James Venter, Jaden Hendrikse, Diego Appollis, Eduan Keyter.

Source: SuperSport


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