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The reason behind Sharks' absent Boks for Bulls clash

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The 2023/24 United Rugby Championship season comes to a close for the Sharks when they host the Bulls at Kings Park on Saturday.

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After being crowned EPCR Challenge Cup champions last week, there is one final challenge the Sharks face, in what will be a physically intense clash against the old foe in this local derby.

A lot is riding on the outcome for the Pretoria side who are currently sitting in second place on the URC log, with the potential to top the table should log leaders Munster succumb to fellow Irish side Ulster in their final clash.

With Leinster and Glasgow Warriors breathing down their necks, a loss could consign the Bulls to fourth place and that is not what they will accept, which all makes for a compelling derby.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree has opted to rest some key players like Makazole Mapimpi, while Grant Williams and Eben Etzebeth will sit out due to injuries or niggles.

“Grant Williams sustained a hamstring injury in the game against Gloucester,” Plumtree revealed on Friday.

“He has not recovered sufficiently.

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“In terms of Mapimpi, we sent him home to visit his family. He played a lot of rugby. In the last seven or eight games he played the full 80 minutes, so I thought it was a good opportunity for him to freshen up ahead of the international season.

“Eben has some back stiffness and with the travelling, it has not been great. He is just a little bit uncomfortable at the moment.

“Lukhanyo Am is still injured and will be out for three to four weeks.”

Plumtree has retained several players who featured in last week’s historic Final in an effort to keep some continuity going.

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Plumtree urged his players to give it one last mighty effort before the coaching team and players enjoy a much-deserved rest following their exertions in the two competitions over the last seven months.

“It’s important for us to sign off on a positive note,” said Plumtree.

“It’s also a massive challenge for us because we’ve only just got back and our week’s prep has been compromised. We also put a lot of energy and effort into winning the Challenge Cup with a lot of travel, having spent four of the last six weeks away from home.

“I have a team that’s pretty knackered, we do have some injuries but it’s important that in our last game, in front of our home crowd, that we go out there and put on a performance that everyone enjoys.”

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Ethan Hooker, 12 Francois Venter (Captain), 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Corne Rahl, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khwezi Mona, 19 Jeandre Labuschagne, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Bradley Davids, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Diego Appollis.

Date: Saturday, June 1
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 16.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Morne Ferreira (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadzweni (South Africa) and Dylen November (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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