Cape Town - Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold says they will by no means be underestimating the Southern Kings in their Super Rugby opener in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Kings return to the competition for the first time since 2013, but their preparation to the new 18-team event has tumultuous to say the least.
Financial problems at the EP Rugby Union saw the players go unpaid - a situation that became so severe that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) had to step in and take charge of the Southern Kings franchise for Super Rugby.
On paper, the Kings squad looks significantly weaker than the other South African franchises, but the Sharks are taking nothing for granted.
“Playing the Kings this weekend will be a challenging first task,” said Gold. “We believe they have gelled well in the last couple of weeks, through adversity. We will give them a lot of respect because they are a very dangerous outfit and we know that throughout this season they’ll want to make their mark.”
Kings coach Deon Davids assured fans that his charges will be well prepared.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to be back in Super Rugby, even though we had a late start in terms of our preparations, and I can assure you that the players wearing the jersey will do their utmost best,” said Davids.
“This will be the first game of the season for both us and the Sharks so it may be tight at first, with the game opening up later once the sides have sussed each other out.”
Kick-off for Saturday’s clash at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is scheduled for 15:05.
15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (captain), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Louis Albertse, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Cyril-John Velleman, 21 Leighton Eksteen, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Charles Radebe
15. Willie le Roux, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Joe Pietersen, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Hyron Andrews, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Tendai Mtawarira (captain)
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Dave McDuling, 20. Philip van der Walt, 21. Michael Claassens, 22. Garth April, 23. S’bura Sithole