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Ward will do more than plug gap

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The Sharks have a different halfback combination to the one that started against the Hurricanes last week.

In accordance with an agreement with the Springboks regarding player management, Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am will sit out tomorrow’s match against the Melbourne Rebels, thus providing an opportunity for Jeremy Ward.

Ward himself has strong leadership qualities as a former SA Under-20 captain and will more than plug a gap. He is a different type of centre to Am, though, in that he is primarily a strong defender and doesn’t possess the silky distribution skills of World Cup-winner Am. The Rebels like to attack through the outside channels and the presence of tough-tackling Ward will negate that.

The captaincy for the day will go to the experienced André Esterhuizen, who will be alongside Ward in the midfield. The Sharks have a different halfback combination to the one that started against the Hurricanes last week.

Curwin Bosch is back at flyhalf after personal leave, replacing Boeta Chamberalin who in any case is unavailable due to concussion, and there is a welcome change at scrumhalf where Sanele Nohamba will make his starting debut in Super Rugby.

Louis Schreuder reverts to the bench for Nohamba, who has been rewarded for his rich form in his three appearances off the bench this season. He scored a match-winning try when he came on against the Bulls in Durban and when he came on at half-time against the Highlanders, he had an excellent 40 minutes. Last week, he showed his class by excelling out of position at No 10 when he replaced the injured Chamberlain.

In a multiple boost, the Sharks have Bosch back at No 10; Thomas du Toit has recovered from illness to start at tighthead; and Makazole Mapimpi has passed concussion protocols and will continue on the left wing.

Last week, Ox Nche had to drop from the starting line-up to provide tighthead cover when Du Toit withdrew but is now back in the No 1 jersey.

Veteran wing Lwazi Mvovo is included on the bench after flying over to Australia to replace concussed Chamberlain, who has returned to Durban.

The Rebels, meanwhile, have suffered a double setback in their backline, losing two experienced Wallabies in Matt To’omua (flyhalf) and Reece Hodge (wing) to groin injuries. The loss of the pair is unquestionably a blow for Rebels coach Dave Wessels.

Wessels will be giving a Super Rugby debut to youngster Andrew Deegan at flyhalf, while Andrew Kellaway comes in for Hodge – the later will also be missed because of his long-range goal-kicking ability.

The Rebels also have changes to their pack, fielding a brand new front row. New Zealander Jermaine Ainsley, who signed with the Melbourne team last year, makes his second start of the season in replacing Ruan Smith, the former Paarl Gimnasium pupil, at tight-head prop.

He will be joined in the front row by newly re-signed prop Matt Gibbon and Steve Misa, who will be making his run-on debut at hooker.

SHARKS (15-1): Aphelele Fassi, Madosh Tambwe, Jeremy Ward, André Esterhuizen (capt), Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Sanele Nohamba, Sikumbuzo Notshe, Tyler Paul, James Venter, Hyron Andrews, Ruben van Heerden, Thomas du Toit, Kerron van Vuuren, Ox Nche. Bench (16-23): Craig Burden, Mzamo Majola, John-Hubert Meyer, Le Roux Roets, Hence Venter, Louis Schreuder, Marius Louw, Lwazi Mvovo.

REBELS (15-1): Dane Haylett-Petty (capt), Andrew Kellaway, Campbell Magnay, Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Andrew Deegan, Ryan Louwrens, Isi Naisarani, Richard Hardwick, Michael Wells, Matt Philip, Ross Haylett-Petty, Jermaine Ainsley, Steven Misa, Matt Gibbon. Bench (16-23): Anaru Rangi, Cameron Orr, Ruan Smith, Gideon Koegelenberg, Angus Cottrell, Rob Leota, Frank Lomani, Tom English.