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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sharks to deploy their Springboks with full force in URC clash against Scarlets

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Durban — In the cowboy movies of old, the cavalry would arrive at the last minute to save the settlers from the baddies. And for the Sharks rugby team, the cavalry doesn’t get bigger and better armed than the Springbok contingent that has ridden into Hollywoodbets Kings Park.

We are talking about gunslingers in the form of Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Jaden Hendrikse, Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am, all of who will be thrust into action next week when the United Rugby Championship (URC) resumes for the Durban team against the Scarlets at Llanelli in the Welsh Valleys.

The following week the same Springboks will be on full show at the Shark Tank for a crunch Heineken Cup match against top Irish team Munster.

Sharks CEO Ed Coetzee confirmed on Wednesday that the full might of the Boks at his disposal will be thrust into action and there will be no spreading or resources across competitions.

“It hasn’t been easy without our Boks and we need them now in both the URC and the Heineken Cup,” he said. “We have been quite stretched — we have only had our Boks for two URC matches — and to have back guys of their quality is a big boost for us. We need all hands on deck for all of our remaining games and our Boks have bought into it.

The Sharks did have their Boks for the Heineken Cup matches late last year and the benefit was obvious — the Sharks won three of their four matches and are third out of the 12 teams in Pool A.

It has not been so good in the URC. The Sharks have been under-strength for most of it and after 15 rounds they are in seventh place, having won eight and lost seven.

It goes without saying that the Sharks have to send their strongest possible side to the Scarlets because they cannot mess around with qualification for the next Heineken Cup.

It is the premier competition in Europe and the most lucrative, and qualification is only guaranteed for the winner. The other teams have to qualify and for the South Africans, that means finishing in the top eight of the URC.

The Sharks can go far in the Heineken Cup but winning it will be extremely tough because their road to a potential final would include away games against giants in Toulouse and Leinster.

For now, though, the focus is solely on beating the Scarlets and with the pack immeasurably boosted by the return of Kolisi and Etzebeth et al, the Sharks will start climbing the ladder away from their perilous seventh place.

@MikeGreenaway67

IOL Sport

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