Sharks head coach Robert du Preez named a slightly changed team to play the Lions at Kings Park on Saturday afternoon with centre Andre Esterhuizen among those coming into the side.
The KZN Super Rugby franchise find themselves second from bottom in the South African conference but could top the standings after this weekend if results go their way.
Esterhuizen feels that the mood of the camp is good ahead of a crunch match against the Lions. The Sharks enjoyed a bye last week after ending their tour to New Zealand on a low note with a six point defeat to the Chiefs.
“We’re back, refreshed after the bye week and ready for this match,” Esterhuizen told sharksrugby.co.za.
“There are a lot of positives in this group, primarily that we are not going to play with a fear of losing, we want to play to win and enjoy the game.”
With four games remaining in the Sharks Super Rugby campiagn, Esterhuizen admits that the remaining matches take on great importance for the team’s playoff hopes, particularly as congested as the table is.
“Every game is vital from now on, there are just a few points that separates the teams in the South African Conference, so we know the importance of every single game.
“But we aren’t putting pressure on ourselves; we’re going out there to enjoy it and play for each other. That’s what we thrived on during the tour and it worked for us.”
Most of the changes made by coach Du Preez are in the pack.
Mzamo Majola comes in for Thomas du Toit at loosehead while Ruben van Heerden returns after missing the Chiefs match to partner Ruan Botha at lock. Hyron Andrews will play off the bench this week.
Eighthman Daniel du Preez returns to the starting line-up with Philip van der Walt moving back to flank, Jacques Vermeulen was named among the replacements. Injuries to Akker van der Merwe and Craig Burden means we could see a Super Rugby debut for Dylan Richardson who is named as reserve hooker.
Sharks starting XV vs Lions
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola
Replacements: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk