The 51-cap Springbok will slot straight into the side, just a few days after arriving back from his stint playing club rugby for the Wild Knights in Japan. Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White had said that it was ‘highly unlikely’ that Pietersen would start in his first week back in Durban, but it seems White’s hand has been forced somewhat with the loss of outside backs Odwa Ndungane (compassinate leave) and Paul Jordaan (knee injury) this week.
Patrick Lambie returns to the starting line-up at flyhalf after being a late withdrawal for last week’s match after he contracted tick bite fever. Frans Steyn moves back to inside centre, despite his impressive performance in the number 10 jersey against the Lions last week. Sibusiso Sithole replaces Jordaan, and joins Steyn in the centres to earn his first start of the Super Rugby season.
Utility back Jaco van Tonder joins the replacements bench, taking Sithole’s place. Continuing the trend the Sharks have set all season, the forward pack remains unchanged. White is aware of the dangers the Reds can cause and recognises the potential that this year’s side has shown in their opening games. “There is no doubt that the Reds have a lot of experience, they’ve won the competition and a lot of their current players were in that winning team, so they understand what it takes to win.
“They travel quite well as a group and the Wallaby captain is leading them. “Obviously they have the makings of a good team and cannot be taken lightly. “They have shown that when they beat the Brumbies and Cheetahs,” White added.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis ,2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 Jaco van Tonder.