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ABSA Currie CupThe Trans-Jukskei derby is the highlight of Round 6 and a sneak preview of a possible Currie Cup Final.

The undefeated neighbours, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions, have been the standout teams and also the 2 most entertaining sides.

Johan Ackermann’s Golden Lions are leading the standings on 25 Log points – having collected a full-house 5 points in all 5 their outings this season.

The Blue Bulls are a solitary point behind, also winning 5 from 5 but won the last Round’s game without a bonus point.

The weekend’s action starts in Port Elizabeth on Friday where the winless Eastern Province Kings host a vastly-improved Toyota Free State Cheetahs team.

Saturday’s early match will see another winless team, ORC Griquas, host a struggling Steval Pumas outfit in Kimberley. Although the Pumas have 2 wins to their credit, including beating the Cell C Sharks in Round 1, they have struggled to maintain their early momentum.

The 3rd-placed DHL Western Province, who are a full 9 points behind the Golden Lions, face the Cell C Sharks in Durban in Round 6 – both desperate for some consistency in a season where promising victories have been soured by disappointing defeats.

Then, of course, we head to Pretoria for what may well be 1 of the best matches of the season.

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Cell C Sharks commemmorative jersey in celebration of 125 years.

Cell C Sharks commemmorative jersey in celebration of 125 years.

The Cell C Sharks will play in a commemorative jersey when they tackle DHL Western Province in a Currie Cup clash at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday.

This year the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union celebrates its 125 year anniversary, and in celebration of this proud milestone, the Sharks have opted to alter their kit for the game against WP.

According to the Sharks, the design of the jersey will have a striking resemblance to the 1st ever Currie Cup jersey the old Natal played in.

Thomas du Toit will pack down at loosehead prop for the Sharks against WP after he recently declared that his preferred position is tighthead. Du Toit believes that his physique is better suited to anchoring the scrum, although he wasn’t out of place at loosehead prop. Du Toit has been playing tighthead since his school days, however his selection at loosehead this week means that he is still being used as a utility prop much like Springboks Coenie Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane.

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ABSA Currie CupABSA Currie Cup pacesetters the Xerox Golden Lions and Vodacom Blue Bulls continued with their unbeaten run over the weekend, while 2014 winners DHL Western Province returned to winning ways after suffering 2 losses in a row.

The Xerox Golden Lions are top of the Premier Division Log standings thanks to a 37 / 21 win over the embattled Eastern Province Kings.

Despite racing into a 19 / 0 lead very early on, the EP Kings rallied back with a spirited performance and the Golden Lions could only seal their success with a late surge on Saturday evening in Johannesburg.

Thanks to their bonus-point win at home, the Golden Lions now Top the log with 25 Log points, 1 more than the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who triumphed 24 / 17 over a resilient Toyota Free State Cheetahs on a cold and wet Friday evening in Pretoria.

Western Province turned on the style in the 2nd half to score a much needed bonus-point 33 / 15 victory over the ORC Griquas at DHL Newlands on Saturday after suffering 2 consecutive defeats. The Cape side have 15 points and remains in 3rd spot.

At Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban, the Cell C Sharks held off a tremendous effort from the Steval Pumas to make it 2 wins in a row thanks to their close-fought 27 / 26 win over the visitors. The Sharks are 4th on the Log and just 2 points behind DHL WP.

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Cobus Reinach

Cobus Reinach

The Cell C Sharks host the Steval Pumas in their return leg ABSA Currie Cup match at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday, looking to use a number of factors to their advantage to reverse the 1st Round result.

Although that victory was something of a shock, the Pumas are a tough prospect at home and in the 1st Round, were able to use continuity following their Vodacom Cup success to overcome a new-look Cell C Sharks side, missing many players.

But that was a month ago and the team have been able to build continuity and develop partnerships and combinations and they will be looking for a growth in improvement as well as home ground advantage to see off the visitors from Mpumalanga.

Odwa Ndungane has been ruled out of the match with a rib joint sprain and has been joined on the sidelines by Michael Claassens who suffered a lower back contusion in last week’s clash with the EP Kings.

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ABSA Currie CupThe Xerox Golden Lions swopped places with the Vodacom Blue Bulls at the Top of the ABSA Currie Cup standings after their comprehensive 41 / 11 win over the Steval Pumas on Friday in Nelspruit, with flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff contributing 21 points with the boot.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls proved too strong for ORC Griquas in their Premier Division clash on Saturday in Kimberley and although they won their match comfortably by 46 / 32, they slipped to 2nd spot on the Log after the completion of Round 4, on points difference.

Elsewhere on Saturday, the Cell C Sharks scored a close-fought 24 / 20 win over the Eastern Province Kings after they overturned a 7 / 13 halftime deficit in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

DHL Western Province, the defending champions, suffered their 2nd successive away loss when the Toyota Free State Cheetahs pipped them by 28 / 21 in Bloemfontein on Friday evening despite a spirited rally in the 2nd half.

After 4 Rounds it is the Golden Lions now leading the Log thanks to their 30-point win in Nelspruit, closely followed by the Blue Bulls. The neighbours both have the maximum 20 points from 4 matches. Western Province and Free State Cheetahs (both 10 points) are 3rd and 4th, with the Sharks 5th and now just 1 point behind them. The Pumas (8 points), EP Kings (3 points) and Griquas (1 point) complete the standings.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks will be looking for back-to-back victories when they meet the EP Kings in their 2nd encounter of ABSA Currie Cup matches in Port Elizabeth following their 33 / 25 1st Round win at Growthpoint Kings Park.

They are aware it’s not going to be easy after the EP Kings showed a much-improved performance against the Steval Pumas last weekend and they’re playing at home with its added advantages.

The backline that did duty against the Xerox Golden Lions last weekend has remained in tact following no injury concerns and they have a desire to develop the cohesion further, while amongst the forwards Gerhard Engelbrecht trades places with Thomas du Toit and will gain his 1st start of the campaign after 2 games played off the bench in the only change to the entire starting XV.

On the bench, JC Astle returns from injury while exciting young prospect Garth April is handed his 1st senior jersey in Cell C Sharks colours.

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ABSA Currie Cup2 Of the tournament’s pace-setters are going head-to-head on Saturday. But it is no ordinary match. It is the BIG north-south derby – the Vodacom Blue Bulls hosting DHL Western Province in the feature match of the weekend, when they meet in Pretoria on Saturday.

They are 2 of only 3 remaining unbeaten sides.

However, before we get there we have 2 Friday games – which will feature 3 teams still seeking their 1st win.

The winless Eastern Province Kings host an ambitious Steval Pumas team in Port Elizabeth, while the central unions partners (and rivals) ORC Griquas and Toyota Free State Cheetahs will meet in Kimberley.

Griquas and Cheetahs are also both still winless.

The Cell C Sharks, fresh from their 1st win of the season, host the high-flying Xerox Golden Lions in Saturday’s early match before we get to the BIG derby at Loftus Versfeld.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls are currently sitting at Top of the standings – as a result of their greater points difference over their Gauteng neighbours, the Xerox Golden Lions – with both on a full-house 10 Log points.

DHL Western Province are 1 Log point further back (9) in 3rd place.

The Cell C Sharks (5 points), Steval Pumas (4), Toyota Free State Cheetahs (1), EP Kings (1) and ORC Griquas (1) trail behind the pace-setters.

We look at all the Round 3 matches!

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Michael Claassens

Michael Claassens

Head coach Gary Gold has made changes to the Cell C Sharks side to take on the Xerox Golden Lions this Saturday at Growthpoint Kings Park, as he looks to overcome one of the form sides this year.

Unbeaten, with maximum Log points and riding a wave of confidence and continuity, the Golden Lions make a strong argument as possible title contenders, something not lost on Gold who warns that his charges will have it tough this weekend.

Paul Jordaan and André Esterhuizen form a youthful but exciting new centre partnership for this week’s match, while S’bura Sithole is welcomed back into the fray, slotting in on the wing.

The hugely experienced Michael Claassens gets his 1st start of the campaign, as does Francois Kleinhans, who comes in for the injured Jean Deysel.

Up front, Dale Chadwick returns from injury, replacing Juan Schoeman in the final change with Lourens Adriaanse, Khaya Majola and Kyle Cooper not considered due to injury.

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Ryan Kankowski

Ryan Kankowski

Springbok loose forward Ryan Kankowski has been hit hard in the pocket, after he was ordered to pay R 322 500.00 to his former agent.

Kankowski was ordered to pay the amount to his previous management team, In Touch Sports, in an arbitration hearing that concluded on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old, capped 20 times for the Springboks, was also ordered to pay back interest on the amount from May 2010 until final settlement, plus legal fees.

The case was 1st heard in the High Court in Durban, but was later referred to arbitration by agreement between the parties.

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ABSA Currie CupThe Xerox Golden Lions, Vodacom Blue Bulls and the DHL Western Province all achieved successive wins in the 2nd Round of the ABSA Currie Cup played over the weekend.

In Durban, the Cell C Sharks opened their account with a win over the Eastern Province Kings, which means the EP Kings, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and the ORC Griquas are still searching for their 1st win after 2 Rounds of Premier Division matches.

At Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg the Xerox Golden Lions survived a bruising battle against the Steval Pumas to win 44 / 27 (halftime 20 / 10) on Friday night. In another Friday evening clash Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman contributed 21 points to steer his team to a 36 / 12 victory over the ORC Griquas at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Griquas led 12 / 6 at halftime.

DHL Western Province beat the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 9 / 3 in driving rain on Saturday afternoon to hand new coach, John Dobson, his 1st ABSA Currie Cup win at DHL Newlands in Cape Town. In the late Saturday kick-off the Cell C Sharks fought off a determined challenge from the Eastern Province Kings to claim a 33 / 25 (half-time 18 / 10) victory at Growthpoint Kings Park.

The Blue Bulls and the Golden Lions have both collected the maximum 10 Log Points on offer from their 2 outings and the Gauteng rivals are closely followed by defending champions, Western Province, who have 9 Log Points.

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Jean Deysel

Jean Deysel

Paul Jordaan

Paul Jordaan

The Cell C Sharks will welcome the return of centre Paul Jordaan to their matchday-22 for Saturday’s clash with the Eastern Province Kings.

Jordaan, who is on the bench for the Currie Cup Round 2 encounter, has been plagued by injuries since his arrival at the Sharks but has shown glimpses of brilliance when he has strung some games together.

Jean Deysel is also back in the starting line-up after being sidelined with injury – replacing Jean-Luc Du Preez who copped a blow against the Pumas last week.

Elsewhere in the forwards, Juan Schoeman, having impressed off the bench last week, is handed a starting berth for the injured Lourens Adriaanse.

Brother of Jean-Luc, Daniel du Preez, replaces Khaya Majola at flank who is also out injured.

In the backline, Sibusiso Sithole is suffering from injury and is replaced on the wing by the experienced Odwa Ndungane who is himself back from a training ground knock.

Andre Esterhuizen shifts from right wing to left wing while the midfield partnership of Wandile Mjekevu and Heimar Williams remains the same.

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Jean-Luc du Preez

Jean-Luc du Preez

Thomas du Toit

Thomas du Toit

Lourens Adriaanse

Lourens Adriaanse

The Cell C Sharks are sweating over the availability of 3 players who were injured in their Currie Cup loss to the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit last Friday.

Props Lourens Adriaanse and Thomas du Toit and loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez sustained blows during the Sharks’ 33 / 24 defeat and could be sidelined for some time.

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Cell C SharksXerox Golden LionsThe Cell C Sharks scored a 33 / 29 victory over the Xerox Golden Lions in an ABSA Currie Cup warm-up match at Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Friday evening.

More than a win, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, asked for his team to show the necessary determination in this warm-up match, and on that score, he will come away from this match well-pleased with their effort, with a victory thrown in for good measure.

Joe Pietersen opened the scoring after both sides showed good attacking intent early in the game, each having a chance to score but not closing out, before he successfully chased his deft grubber through the middle, the ball popping up nicely for him to score under the posts.

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Cell C SharksAfter a dismal Super Rugby season the Cell C Sharks have gone through a major revamp allowing a new crop of players to step up.

With the exodus of a number of the Sharks’ Springbok players to overseas contracts, and many of their big-name players plying their trade at The Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup for the Springboks, a next generation of Sharks players both young and new need to man-up to the big stage.

Sibusiso ‘S’bura’ Sithole is 1 of those players that will be a key element to their success and he acknowledges that although not a senior player, he does bring a wealth of experience and knows that he has a big role to play.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee

The Sharks have released 2 Media Releases today, with the 1st 1 bearing the news that Pieter-Steph du Toit is leaving the Union. The 2nd Media release focusses on Marcell Coetzee re-signing with the Sharks and also reveals the other candidates who have chosen to continue to ply their trade at the Sharks.

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit:

Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, today confirmed his departure from the Cell C Sharks at the end of his contract, which expires in October 2015.

Having made his debut for The Sharks in 2012, du Toit with his strong physicality and presence has become an influential player for the franchise with strong performances that earned him Springbok colours in 2013.

Commenting on his departure, The Sharks CEO John Smit said: “We are terribly disappointed to lose a player of the calibre of Pieter-Steph du Toit. Despite our best efforts to keep him in the province, he has chosen to move on.

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David McDuling

David McDuling

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, ahead of the ABSA Currie Cup season.

The Sharks press release reads as follows:

We are pleased to announce the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, who will join the Cell C Sharks until the end of 2016.

Known for his never-give-up attitude and athleticism around the park, McDuling made his Super Rugby debut in 2014 against the Crusaders and has since amassed a total of 12 Super Rugby caps for the Reds. He also won the inaugural season of the National Rugby Championship with Brisbane City and had the most carries and run metres of any 2nd rower in the competition.

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Willem Alberts

Willem Alberts

Stade Français have confirmed the signing of Springbok back row Willem Alberts who will join the club after the Rugby World Cup.

The Top 14 champions have not brought in many players this off-season, generally prioritising quality over quantity, as Alberts joins Will Genia in the French capital.

Alberts arrives from the Cell C Sharks on a 3-year deal and will join a back row which already features Sergio Parisse, Raphaël Lakafia and Antoine Burban, while promising youngster Sekou Macalou also arrived over the off-season from Massy.

The 31-year-old made his Springbok debut back in 2010 and has scored 7 tries in 32 tests.

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Late Brett Williams

Late Brett Williams

The lone remaining accused, Blayne Shepard, was found guilty of culpable homicide for the incident which took place after a Super Rugby match between the Sharks and the Melbourne Rebels, where Mr Brett Williams died after assault.

 

The Sharks Media Release Reads as follows:

The Sharks welcome the judgment delivered yesterday in the Brett Williams murder case, which tragically occurred on the outer-fields at Growthpoint Kings Park in 2013.

We thrive on creating a family environment at the stadium where all ages can enjoy a wonderful matchday experience in a safe and secure environment. We have a zero tolerance policy with regard to untoward behaviour at the stadium and we don’t condone this in the strictest terms.

In the last year, we have focussed extensively from moving away from a club culture within the stadium to a more family orientated focus with the implementation of an outer-field market, a supervised kids dugout area, the Mangwanani Spa offering on matchday as well as many other exciting initiatives, which is aimed at providing world-class entertainment for our patrons.

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Cell C SharksThe Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, will be heading-up the Cell C Sharks coaching team for this year’s ABSA Currie Cup campaign. He will be ably supported by the experienced backline coach Sean Everitt and Ryan Strudwick who will look after the forwards.

The Sharks report that Sean has worked with many of the players in their current squad through the various age-group ranks and has enjoyed great success and has a fantastic rapport with them. Ryan recently won the Varsity Shield trophy with the UKZN Impi’s and has also been involved in their coaching set-up for a few years.

Gold said: “For the first time since I arrived, I am satisfied that there is continuity and clarity amongst the various age-groups and this has been achieved through the redeployment of the coaching structures. The historic structure lacked the necessary focus throughout the age-groups. We had approached and considered a replacement for Brad. However, we have after consultation with all stakeholders including the team, decided within this new framework, that it will be in the best interest of the team and for continuity for me to oversee the campaign with the assistance of Sean and Ryan.”

To this end, Michael Horak, who enjoyed great success with Varsity Cup side UFS Shimlas will head up the Cell C Sharks Under 21 campaign and will be assisted by AB Zondagh.

The Under 19 team will be headed-up by Paul Anthony who brings with him a wealth of experience as well as success having won the competition twice with the Blue Bulls. His deputy will be Andre Barnard.

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Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

The Sharks took delight in announcing the signing of Springbok loosehead prop, Coenie Oosthuizen, on a 4-year deal.

Oosthuizen made his Springbok debut in 2012 and has since amassed 21 caps in the green and gold jersey. He is a versatile prop that is able to play on both sides of the scrum and is a welcome addition to the Cell C Sharks family.

Commenting on his signing, The Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold said: “I am pleased that Coenie has taken up our offer to play his rugby in Durban. He is an exceptional player who boasts surprising pace and is known for his strong runs and work rate around the park.

“His experience will prove invaluable to our team ambitions going forward.”

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Pat Lambie

Pat Lambie

The Springboks will welcome the news that flyhalf Pat Lambie has been declared fit for action.

The Cell C Sharks pivot visited a specialist on Thursday to determine the extent of the neck injury which sidelined him for the past 3 months.

The Sharks on Thursday announced that the 24-year-old was fit to play.

He is expected to be included in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok squad on Saturday.

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Dick Muir

Dick Muir

Former Springbok and Sharks legend Mark Andrews says the Sharks need a coach who understands their culture.

Gary Gold took charge of the Sharks in Super Rugby, but it was recently announced that Gold would not coach the team in future and instead focus on his Director of Rugby role.

Andrews feels former Sharks centre Dick Muir would be the ideal candidate to take the coaching reins in Durban.

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Wandile Mjekevu

Wandile Mjekevu

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of utility back Wandile Mjekevu on a 2-year deal effective from July this year.

After having spent time with the Lions and the Sharks, the former junior Springbok joined French Top 14 club Perpignan in 2013 where he gained some valuable experience at the club and got the opportunity to further develop his game.

Commenting on Mjekevu’s signing, the Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, said they were delighted to bring the once promising young talent to Durban.

“We are delighted that Wandile has decided to return to the Sharks,” said Gold.

“He had a great stint in France and he is an unbelievable prospect. His strength and agility around the park will most certainly bolster our backline and we look forward to him progressing at the franchise.”

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Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee

The tide of South Africans heading abroad continues as Marcell Coetzee is one of the latest to ink a deal in Japan, utilising the grace period after the World Cup.

The Springbok will join Honda Heat and feature in the Japanese league from 1 November 2015 to 31 January 2016. The good news for South African fans though is that he will return to Durban after his contract in time the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Honda Heat have also strengthened their side with the signing of Wallaby wing Digby Ioane from the French club Stade Francais.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

DHL Western Province Director of Rugby Gert Smal has confirmed their interest in signing Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit from the Cell C Sharks.

Smal confirmed to EWN Sport that a discussion between him and Du Toit had taken place.

Smal said the Sharks had agreed to the discussion taking place.

The WP boss said the discussion went well and he now hopes Du Toit “makes the right decision to come to Cape Town.”

Du Toit, 22, signed a 2-year contract extension at the Sharks in July 2013 which runs until 30 June this year.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Jake White

Jake White

World Cup winning coach Jake White has formally welcomed the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, to his French club Montpellier.

The Top 14 outfit on Wednesday confirmed the signing of the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, from the Cell C Sharks.

In a brief statement on the club website Montpellier said the 2 Du Plessis brother had signed for 3 years.

The 2, who won the World Cup with White as coach in 2007, will head to France after this year’s edition of the World Cup – in England in September and October.

White welcomed the signing of the Springbok duo.

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Jimmy Stonehouse

Jimmy Stonehouse

Former Steval Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse, 1 of the country’s most undervalued coaches, is rumoured to have thrown his name into the hat for vacant coaching positions at the Cell C Sharks, Vodacom Bulls and Southern Kings.

4 Of South Africa’s franchises will be looking to fill their vacant head coach positions before the start of the revamped and extended Super Rugby tournament in 2016.

Stonehouse took up a coaching job with Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus earlier this year after he declined 2 previous offers from abroad with the hope of landing a job with a South African franchise.

The Bulls head coach position opened up over the weekend when Frans Ludeke resigned after 8 years in charge of South Africa’s most successful Super Rugby franchise.

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Robert du Preez

Robert du Preez

André Esterhuizen

André Esterhuizen

DHL Stormers’ fullback Robert du Preez and Sharks centre André Esterhuizen have both been handed lengthy suspensions after performing dangerous tackles in their game on Saturday.

The Sharks won the match 34 / 12 in Durban.

Du Preez has been suspended for 6 weeks – after being shown a Yellow Card for his dangerous tackle on Sharks’ wing Lwazi Mvovo in the 76th minute, while Esterhuizen got 4 weeks after his tackle on Stormers flank Michael Rhodes in the 10th minute.

Both players were found guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j): Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and / or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

Judicial officer Nigel Hampton deemed that with Du Preez the offence was more serious and thus handing the player a longer suspension.

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Brad Macleod-Henderson

Brad Macleod-Henderson

The Sharks (Pty) Ltd announced that assistant coach, Brad Macleod-Henderson has resigned from the Sharks.

Brad had been involved with the Sharks since 2012 initially with the Under 21’s before joining the senior side in July 2013.

He was assistant coach in their last 2 Super Rugby campaigns, looking after the forwards and breakdown and headed-up the Currie Cup campaigns.

The Sharks offered Brad a role within their new structures, going forward but he felt that it was time to move on.

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