- Sharks coach Sean Everitt is chuffed to have Lukhanyo Am back from his Japan stint.
- While Am was in the Far East, the Sharks found different ways to cope without him.
- Everitt adds they'll be ready for any changes in the weather as the seasons transition in the hemispheres.
The Sharks showed they could live without their crack Springbok midfielder Lukhanyo Am, but their coach Sean Everitt said they were chuffed to have him back.
The captaincy for Friday's crucial United Rugby Championship game against Ulster in Belfast will remain with prop Thomas du Toit, but with the playoffs looming, there's no better time to have your best back returning.
Everitt said they missed Am in every aspect of the team set-up. Am, whose contract with the Sharks will end in 2025, was in Japan for a short stint.
"We're very happy to have Lukhanyo back and he's a key member of our team," Everitt said.
"We missed him while he was away. It's not just about what he brings when he's on the field, but his leadership off the field."
The South African teams last played in Europe at the end of February. The Sharks and the Bulls brushed aside the Italian teams, while Stormers and Lions fell to Connacht and Leinster respectively.
They then embarked on a home run that levelled out their poor start to the competition in Europe, even though the Sharks didn't turn up in their 21-5 loss to Edinburgh on 26 March.
Everitt said they're a different bunch as compared to what they were at the start of the competition and have found a way of rugby that works for them.
"All the South African teams struggled at the beginning of the competition, but we have a different team now as compared to that time," Everitt said.
"We've done well to build cohesion. We've come on nicely as a group and we play an all-around brand of rugby.
"This group has become tighter with the more time they've spent together, with the fortune of being able to pick the same squad each week has helped."
With the northern hemisphere transitioning into summer, it would be easy to expect conditions to be kinder.
Everitt said rain was predicted for their game, but that's something they're ready for.
"We've played in rainy conditions at home, but the difference is the type of rain," Everitt said.
"In Durban, it's warm rain and here, it's a cold rain and we're told it's not going to be great for the game, but our game model allows us to adjust accordingly."
Friday's game in Belfast gets underway at 20:35 (SA time).
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit (captain), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Boeta Chamberlain