The Sharks starting XV to face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday in their final tour match shows a number of changes.
There is a sense of optimism and quite confidence about the team after they followed up their narrow defeat at the hands of the Blues with a morale-boosting victory over the Highlanders last week.
“We face another big challenge in the Chiefs this Friday, they’re top of the table and enjoyed a memorable win last week,” said Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold who acknowledges that they have an enormous task ahead of them, but one they are facing willingly, head-on.
“They’re playing fantastic rugby and comfortably the best team in New Zealand at the moment so we know we have our work cut out for us.”
Last week’s injury to Cobus Reinach opens the door for Michael Claassens to get a start, with Stefan Ungerer, having joined the squad from Durban this week, named on the bench. Likewise, with Philip van der Walt having returned home from tour, Daniel du Preez reverts to the number eight position.
Up front, there is a new front row with Dale Chadwick replacing Tendai Mtawarira, Franco Marais making way for Kyle Cooper and Lourens Adriaanse and Coenie Oosthuizen swapping jerseys.
Mtawarira's demotion means Keegan Daniel takes over the captaincy.
“Training after a win means the guys come with a smile on their faces and a spring in the step, but we must be honest, we are playing the best team in New Zealand and we will stay grounded, we know what a tough task this is,” added Gold.
“We’re excited for the challenge and hopefully we’re going to continue to improve. The guys are excited and the spirit in the camp is really good and the guys can’t wait to take on the Chiefs and hopefully make it a memorable tour.”
Sharks: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Joe Pietersen, 23 Odwa Ndungane
Date: Friday, 29 April
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Kick-off: 19:35 (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Angus Mabey
TMO: Glenn Newman