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It’s important to manage top players’ workloads, says Neil Powell after naming rotated team

Johannesburg — Sharks Director of Rugby, Neil Powell, revealed his reasons for a heavily altered matchday 23 which will face the Emirates Lions on Friday at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash.

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In all, Powell has made 10 changes, including two positional, to the starting XV that narrowly beat Bordeaux a week ago in the Heineken Champions Cup away. The pack, in particular, has undergone a resulffle, with only captain Phepsi Buthelezi retaining his No 8 starting position.

Vincent Tshituka and Thomas du Toit, who both played in the 19-16 victory over the French Top 14 outfit will also start, but have been moved into new positions. Tshituka, who prefers playing as a loose-forward, will play once again in the second-row as the No 4 lock, while The Tank switches sides in the scrum from tighthead to the No 1 jumper.

In the backline only Curwin Bosch, Makazola Mapimpi, Werner Kok and Boeta Chamberlain retain their positions. On the bench Kerron van Vuuren is installed with Daniel Jooste promoted to the No 2 jersey, while Gerbrandt Grobler, Siya Kolisi, Jaden Hendrikse and Ben Tapuai will all have a run later in the match.

Ntutuhuko Mchunu, Bongi Mbonambi and Eben Etzebeth have all been rested, while Francois Venter has been sidelined completely.

It will see some still untested combinations, such as an all new front-row in Du Toit, Jooste and Carlu Sadie; and the second-row pairing of Tshituka and Hyron Andrews. They will face the burly Willem Alberts and underrated Reinhard Nothnagel of the Lions.

Perhaps the most intriguing partnership will be that of centre-pairing with the powerful Rohan Janse van Rensburg at inside-centre, next to the effervescent Lukhanyo Am.

On Thursday, during the team media briefing, Powell explained his thought process regarding these changes.

“It is a part of our rotational policy,” he said.

“We have not selected some players in an effort to give them a break. If you look at the amount of game minutes that Siya and Eben have got over the last few months — not just for the Sharks but also for SA — it is important for us to manage them well.

“We are in a block where we play 11 consecutive games and we are only at the fifth game. There are another six games after this, so it is going to be important for us to manage our squad to get through these 11 weeks.

“It’s an opportunity for a guy like Eben to get a break and play Siya off the bench. Ox (Nche) is still suspended but he will hopefully be back for the Bulls game next week.”

Powell also revealed his reasoning behind naming Buthelezi skipper ahead of more seasoned and experienced campaigners Du Toit and Am; and unsurprisingly it has everything to do with the Rugby World Cup in France next year.

Said Powell: “Lukhanyo has just come back from a long-term injury and the most important thing for him now is to just focus on his own game.

“We want to allow him to do exactly that. To give him the added responsibility of leading the team will always be difficult for someone who comes back from a long-term injury …

“The Boks will only be available for certain times in the year, and it is crucial that we have a bit of continuity in our captain for the whole URC campaign.”

The URC clash kicks-off at 5pm.

Sharks starting XV: 15 Boeta Chamberlain, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (capt), 7 Jeandre Labuschagne, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Vincent Tshituka, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Dan Jooste, 1 Thomas du Toit. Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Gerbrandt Grobler, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Lionel Cronje, 23 Ben Tapuai

@FreemanZAR

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