The United Rugby Championship resumes on Friday as three games take place with the Sharks, Glasgow Warriors and Ulster hosting Benetton, Scarlets and Dragons respectively.
Sharks v Benetton
Sadly Rohan Janse van Rensburg had to be stretchered off in the Champions Cup quarter-final showdown with Toulouse last weekend and has not been cleared to play.
In his place comes Australian international Ben Tapuai, while Marnus Potgieter is promoted to the replacements bench in the only changes to the matchday squad.
Elsewhere, Springboks Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Thomas du Toit continue in the front-row again, while Gerbrandt Grobler and Hyron Andrews are the two locks.
In the back-row, Siya Kolisi captains the side at number six while Vincent Tshituka starts on the blindside, and Sikhumbuzo Notshe is at number eight.
Grant Williams and Curwin Bosch are the starting half-backs while Lukhanyo Am joins Tapaui in midfield. Boeta Chamberlain is at full-back alongside Makazole Mapimpi and Werner Kok, who are the starting wings.
This match is important for a number of reasons, most obvious the need to simply win. Currently in eighth position, the Sharks must fight off a late challenge from the Italians who are one place lower on the overall table and a point behind.
With two rounds remaining – the Sharks host Munster next weekend, the team they defeated in the Champions Cup round-of-16 a fortnight ago – the race for final places in the top eight has reached fever pitch and the pressure is on everyone to finish as high up as possible, or indeed, make the top eight and entry into the knock-outs.
Benetton have had a mixed bag of results, losing to the Lions in their last match, but have beaten Ulster as well, losing the other three of their previous five games this year. They will come to Durban intent on causing an upset.
Three changes for Benetton
Meanwhile, Benetton head coach Marco Bortolami has made three alterations to his starting line-up which beat Cardiff in their Challenge Cup quarter-final last weekend.
All the changes are in the backline Joaquin Riera coming in for Tommaso Menoncello at inside centre, Tomas Albornoz replacing Jacob Umaga at fly-half and Lorenzo Cannone takes over from Henry Stowers at number eight.
Sharks: 15 Boeta Chamberlain, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuurren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jeandre Labuschagne, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marnus Potgieter, 23 Thaakir Abrahams
Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Joaquin Riera, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (c), 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Nahuel Tetaz
Replacements: 16 Siua Maile, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Marco Zanon
Date: Friday, April 14
Venue: Hollywoodbets King Park
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 BST, 16:30 GMT)
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Morne Ferreira (South Africa), Stephan Geldenhuys (South Africa)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
🟣 Ready to #PlasterItPurple
Here is your Glasgow Warriors team that will be taking on @scarlets_rugby at Scotstoun tomorrow night!
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) April 13, 2023
Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets
Glasgow Warriors have made 10 changes to their starting line-up for their United Rugby Championship clash with Scarlets at Scotstoun.
Franco Smith’s side goes into the match – which will see the club support its Official Charity Partner, Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, through a host of activations across the night – knowing that a win will secure a home quarter-final in the URC.
Johnny Matthews is the only alteration to the front-row that started at Scotstoun last weekend, the hooker packing down between Scotland international duo Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson.
An all-new second-row partnership sees Lewis Bean start alongside JP du Preez, the pair both coming into the starting XV after coming off the bench on Saturday night.
Ryan Wilson is named on the blindside in the week in which it was announced that the club legend will be leaving Scotstoun at the end of the season, with Sione Vailanu recovering from injury to line up at number eight in a back-row completed by Matt Fagerson.
Ali Price is promoted from the replacements bench to start at scrum-half, with Tom Jordan selected at fly-half after his try-scoring cameo against the Lions last time out.
Sam Johnson and Stafford McDowall rekindle their partnership in the centres, the duo having been central to the club’s historic win away to Munster three weeks ago on their last outing together.
Huw Jones shifts to full-back to accommodate Johnson and McDowall’s inclusion, as Cole Forbes and club captain Kyle Steyn complete the starting XV.
Fraser Brown comes into the matchday 23 for the first time since that triumph at Thomond Park, the hooker joining Nathan McBeth and Simon Berghan as the front-row cover.
Richie Gray and Scott Cumming rotate to the bench after starting both of the club’s Challenge Cup knockout matches to date, Rory Darge doing likewise after a Player of the Match-winning display against the Lions.
Jamie Dobie and Domingo Miotti cover the backs in a six-two split on the bench, the pair having also both been involved in both of the club’s European knockout ties at Scotstoun.
Scarlets make 11 changes
Meanwhile, Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel has made 11 changes to his side that defeated Clermont 32-30 in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Veteran full-back Leigh Halfpenny is going through his return-to-play protocols and is replaced in the starting line-up by Tom Rogers. Steff Evans and Ryan Conbeer start on the wings.
Ioan Nicholas and 20-year-old Eddie James combine in an all-new centre pairing as James earns his first URC start. Kieran Hardy starts at scrum-half with Dan Jones in the number 10 jersey.
Iwan Shenton will make his URC debut in the number six jersey, with Josh Macleod captaining the side at openside and Carwyn Tuipulotu at number eight in place of the injured Sione Kalamafoni.
Vaea Fifita is partnered by Morgan Jones in the second-row with Wyn Jones at loosehead prop, Shaun Evans at hooker and Sam Wainwright at tighthead.
There is another potential debut on the card for back-rower Iestyn Rees, who starts from the bench. Aaron Shingler covers lock from the replacements, with Daf Hughes, Steff Thomas and Javan Sebastian named as front-row replacements.
Finally, Dane Blacker, Rhys Patchell and Joe Roberts cover the backline.
Glasgow: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Kyle Steyn (c), 13 Stafford McDowall, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Cole Forbes, 10 Tom Jordan, 9 Ali Price, 8 Sione Vailanu, 7 Matt Fagerson, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Lewis Bean, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Johnny Matthews, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Scott Cummings, 21 Rory Darge, 22 Jamie Dobie, 23 Domingo Miotti
Scarlets: 15 Tom Rogers, 14 Steff Evans, 13 Ioan Nicholas, 12 Eddie James, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 7 Josh Macleod (c), 6 Iwan Shenton, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Morgan Jones, 3 Sam Wainwright, 2 Shaun Evans, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Daf Hughes, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Iestyn Rees, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Joe Roberts
Date: Friday, April 14
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ross Mabon (Scotland, Calum Worsley (Scotland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
📣 Team News
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) April 13, 2023
Ulster v Dragons
Alan O’Connor skippers Ulster next to Sam Carter in the second-row, with Tom O’Toole, Tom Stewart and Eric O’Sullivan their front-row to face the Dragons.
Duane Vermeulen starts at number eight and is joined by Marcus Rea and David McCann in the back-row.
Scrum-half John Cooney is joined by Billy Burns in the half-back pairing with Stuart McCloskey and James Hume the midfield partnership. Meanwhile, Mike Lowry, Craig Gilroy and Jacob Stockdale make up the back-three.
John Andrew, Andy Warwick and Jeff Toomaga Allen are the front-row options with Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney the remaining forward replacements.
Finally, scrum-half Nathan Doak is joined by Stuart Moore and Ethan McIlroy as backline cover.
Meanwhile, scrum-half Rhodri Williams leads the Dragons with Angus O’Brien his half-back partner.
Max Clark and Jared Rosser combine in the centres with Jordan Williams, Ashton Hewitt and the explosive Rio Dyer in the back three.
Number eight Aaron Wainwright is joined by Taine Basham and George Nott in the back-row whilst Matthew Screech and Ben Carter are in the second-row. Props Leon Brown and Rhodri Jones are joined by Elliot Dee in the coalface.
One the pine Brodie Coghlan, Josh Reynold and Lloyd Fairbrother are the front-row substitutions with Sean Lonsdale and George Young are the forward options.
Lewis Jones, Will Reed and Aneurin Owen are the remaining replacements.
Ulster: 15 Mike Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Marcus Rea, 6 David McCann, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Alan O’Connor (c), 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Jeffery Toomaga Allen, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Ethan McIlroy
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Jared Rosser, 12 Max Clark, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Rhodri Williams (c), 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 George Nott, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Rhodri Jones
Replacements: 16 Brodie Coghlan, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 George Young, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Will Reed, 23 Aneurin Owen
Date: Friday, April 14
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Eoghan Cross (Ireland), Padraic Reidy (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)