Injury-plagued Sharks determined to end URC tour on a high, take aim at improved Zebre side

09 November 2023 - 17:13
By Sithembiso Dindi
Sharks pivot Boeta Chamberlain during the United Rugby Championship match against Benetton Rugby at Kings Park on April 14 2023.
Image: Steve Haag Sports/Gallo Images Sharks pivot Boeta Chamberlain during the United Rugby Championship match against Benetton Rugby at Kings Park on April 14 2023.

Having failed to register a victory in the opening three rounds of the new United Rugby Championship (URC) season, Sharks coach John Plumtree says their match against Zebre Parma is a must-win for the Durbanites.   

The men from the Zulu kingdom wrap up their four-week European tour in Italy with the match against Zebre, who are also winless, at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Friday (7.30pm).

The Sharks, plagued by injuries before the game, are the only side that has failed to register a point after three rounds into the campaign.   

They have lost their matches against Munster, Leinster and Ospreys.

While the results have been unsatisfactory, it should be noted that Plumtree is missing eight Springboks for the tour.   

“It was obviously going to be a tough assignment for this young team, but we were disappointed with our performance against the Ospreys,” Plumtree said.   

“So it makes this game against Zebre a must-win for us. We would like to get some points and get on the table.”   

Getting a victory against the Italians is not going to be a stroll in the park as Zebre have shown exceptional improvements this season.   

They may have not won a match so far but they have put up a gallant performance in narrow defeats against Ulster and Ospreys. They suffered a 54-29 defeat against the Bulls, but they also displayed commendable fighting spirit.   

They look nothing like the side that failed to win a match in the URC previous campaign and Plumtree is aware they will need to be at their best if they are to beat the Italians away from home. They have picked up five bonus points in their past three outings.   

“They have improved a lot as a team and they have been competitive in all their games, so they will be targeting us and smelling blood. We have to make sure we force our game on them,” he said.   

“They like to play with a ball on them, they like to score tries from deep. However, they give opportunities from the attack, if we attack well.   

“Hopefully we will build pressure in attack and put them under pressure.”   

Plumtree has at least 11 players not in contention for game time due to injuries — first-choice flyhalf Curwin Bosch, Le Roux Roets, Muller du Plessis, Nevaldo Fleurs, Francois Hougaard, Reniel Hugo, Vincent Koch, Vincent Tshituka, Kerron van Vuuren and Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi who was injured during the Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks.   

Bosch’s injury will see Boeta Chamberlain starting at flyhalf against Zebre, while George Cronje starts at No 8, swapping jerseys with Sikhumbuzo Notshe who drops to the bench. The rest of the starting line-up remains unchanged.

Sharks team: (1-15): Ntuthuko Mchunu, Dylan Richardson, Coenie Oosthuizen, Corne’ Rahl, Emile van Heerden, James Venter, Phepsi Buthelezi, George Cronje, Cameron Wright, Boeta Chamberlain, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Francois Venter (captain) Werner Kok, Aphelele Fassi.

Replacements: Daniel Jooste, Khwezi Mona, Hanro Jacobs, Hyron Andrews, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Zee Mkhabela, Lionel Cronje, Marnus Potgieter.