A closer look at the Sharks – the British and Irish Lions’ next opponents

·3-min read

The British and Irish Lions will be looking to maintain their momentum when they take on the Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Following a pre-departure victory over Japan, the Lions made their presence felt on South African soil with a thumping win against the Sigma Lions in their opening tour match on Saturday.

Durban outfit the Sharks – who recently played in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup and will be part of the United Rugby Championship when it launches next season – are the opponents for the second of five warm-up matches in South Africa ahead of a three-Test series against the Springboks.

Here, we take a closer look at Wednesday night’s opponents.

Background

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The Sharks – along with the Stormers, Bulls and Lions – were formerly part of Super Rugby and finished as runners-up on four occasions, winning the South African Conference in 2014. All South African teams were withdrawn from the competition in 2020 with a view to joining an expanded PRO14, and the formation of the URC – consisting of the four South African sides alongside the existing 12 PRO14 teams – was announced last month, following the Sharks’ participation in the Rainbow Cup. The British and Irish Lions were 39-3 victors over the Sharks when the teams met during the 2009 tour.

Form

The Sharks finished third in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA but were in with a shot at reaching the final right up to their last round-robin match against the Bulls, who eventually progressed to the decider. They won three of their six matches in that competition and had a better record away than they did at home, which could bode well ahead of a Lions clash that will be played at Emirates Airline Park, home of the Sigma Lions, where the Sharks won 33-21 in the Rainbow Cup a month ago.

Coach

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Sean Everitt joined the Sharks as a youth coach in 2008 but has worked his way through the ranks to take the top job. The 51-year-old was appointed assistant coach of the senior side in 2017 before becoming head coach in 2020. He signed a new contract in March that will take him through to 2024.

Key players

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The Sharks are the best-represented side in the Springboks squad, boasting a nine-strong contingent headlined by captain Siya Kolisi, who joined from the Stormers earlier this year. However, with all of those players ruled out of Wednesday’s match, Everitt’s men will be severely weakened against the Lions. Of the players left behind, fly-half Curwin Bosch was the second highest points scorer in the South African section of the Rainbow Cup, while only the Stormers’ Edwill Van Der Merwe managed more tries in the competition than lock Reniel Hugo and hooker Kerron Van Vuuren. Bosch will start on Wednesday, with Hugo and Van Vuuren on the bench. Scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse, who is in the XV, crossed for two tries in a narrow Currie Cup defeat to Western Province last week.

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