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Eben Etzebeth returns for URC strugglers Sharks with host of World Cup winners

By Josh Raisey
(Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth is poised to make his first appearance since winning the World Cup as the Sharks take on the Dragons in the United Rugby Championship tomorrow at Hollywoodbets Kings Park.

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Etzebeth starts alongside fellow World Cup winners Makazole Mapimpi and Jaden Hendrikse, who are also making their first appearances since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, while Lukhanyo Am captains the side again after returning last week.

Ox Nche and Grant Williams are the other two World Cup winners set to face the Dragons, and will start on the bench.

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Evan Roos on the advice he got from Eben Etzebeth

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Evan Roos on the advice he got from Eben Etzebeth

Looking ahead to the return of some of their star players, attack coach Dave Williams said: “We’ve been celebrating the achievements of the Hollywoodbets Sharks players returning from the Rugby World Cup with them and they’ve brought a huge amount of energy with them which has been great for us as a collective.

“Having these players back and the confidence they bring, has been contagious and the rest of the group are all excited for Saturday’s game.”

Although the results haven’t gone the way of the Hollywoodbets Sharks this campaign, there’s no reason to overthink things. But everyone involved does understand the need to turn things around.

“We have a long-term plan, but the immediate focus is around getting excited about finishing opportunities that we’re creating and maximising those rewards.

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“We’ve spoken as a group around evolving our game and building pressure with the ball and through our transition game. We’re seeking rewards and the focus is on getting those conversions on the back of good rugby.

“Working for a franchise like this, you embrace the pressure of expectation. In terms of this being a must-win, we go out every game to deliver a performance that wins rugby games, and that’s no different this week.”

The Sharks are the only winless side in the URC this season, and therefore sit at the bottom of the table, four points behind the Scarlets and tomorrow’s visitors the Dragons. A win could potentially lift the South African outfit from the foot of the league table.

Sharks XV
1. Ntuthuko Mchunu
2. Fez Mbatha
3. Coenie Oosthuizen
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Emile van Heerden
6. James Venter
7. Phepsi Buthelezi
8. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
9. Jaden Hendrikse
10. Curwin Bosch
11. Makazole Mapimpi
12. Francois Venter
13. Lukhanyo Am (c)
14. Werner Kok
15. Aphelele Fassi

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Replacements
16. Daniel Jooste
17. Ox Nche
18. Hanro Jacobs
19. Corne’ Rahl
20. Lappies Labuschagne
21. Grant Williams
22. Boeta Chamberlain
23. Rohan Janse van Rensburg

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William 4 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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