EDINBURGH coach Mike Blair has welcomed back seven Scotland internationals to his starting 15 for tomorrow’s URC match against the Sharks in Durban.
Four of the changes are in the backs, where captain Mark Bennett and James Lang form the centre partnership, and Blair Kinghorn and Ben Vellacott are the half-backs. In the pack, Jamie Hodgson is at lock, Magnus Bradbury is at blindside and Hamish Watson is named at openside.
The reshaped back row sees Ben Muncaster, at No 6 in the loss to Glasgow last week, move to No 8 in place of Mesu Kunavula. Another significant change to the team sees Freddie Owsley come in on the wing for what will be just his second appearance. He is an indirect replacement for full-back Henry Immelman, who has dropped out through injury, while Emiliano Boffelli moves from the wing to the last line of defence.
“We’ve really relished our time in South Africa so far and the squad are all buying into what we’re trying to achieve,” Blair said. “It’s hot, conditions are tricky and we’re out of our comfort zones, but that’s what makes this challenge so exciting. It’s really galvanised the playing group.
“We’re here to do something special. No travelling team has won in South Africa in the URC so far this season and we want to do everything we can to change that. But, in saying that, we’re under no illusion about the task ahead as Sharks are a quality side, with a number of Springboks in their ranks.
“After a long flight and recovery to start the week, we’ve trained excellently and an intensity has been building ahead of tomorrow night’s clash. We’re really proud to represent the city and club on South African soil and the guys are excited for what is going to be a massive test.”
A formidable Sharks line-up includes Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, winger Makazole Mapimpi and front-row forwards Ox Nche and Bongi Mbonambi.
Edinburgh (v the Sharks at King’s Park, Durban, 3.05pm GMT Saturday): E Boffelli; R Moyano, M Bennett (captain), J Lang, F Owsley; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott; B Venter, D Cherry, L Atalifo, P Phillips, J Hodgson, M Bradbury, H Watson, B Muncaster. Substitutes: A McBurney, H Courtney, L de Bruin, G Young, C Boyle, C Shiel, J van der Walt, C Dean.
Ten players are listed as unavailable because of injury: Rudi Brown, Jamie Campbell, Luke Crosbie, Nick Haining, Damien Hoyland, Immelman, James Johnstone, Bill Mata, Jamie Ritchie and Ben Toolis.
Cell C Sharks: A Volmink; W Kok, B Tapuia, M Louw, M Mapimpi; C Bosch, G Williams; O Nche, B Mbonambi, T du Toit, G Grobler, R Hugo, S Kolisi (captain), H Venter, S Notshe. Substitutes: K van Vuuren, N Mchunu, K Mchunu, L Roets, P Buthelezi, J Venter, J Hendrikse, B Chamberlain.