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Neil de Kock excited by ‘massive challenge’ of Sharks clash

Neil de Kock of Saracens. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images Neil de Kock of Saracens. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Thursday, January 23, 2014
3:31 PM

Saracens have named a strong side to face the Currie Cup champions Sharks in a one-off match that 10-cap Springbok Neil de Kock insists is “a massive challenge” for the Premiership leaders.

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Saturday’s Sanlam Private Investments Shield match at Allianz Park (2.30pm) comes in the middle of Sarries’ season but represents a first match of the South African side’s pre-season.

Nevertheless, Sharks are packed with talent and will face a home side, including De Kock, who have plenty of ties to the Rainbow Nation.

“We’ve got quite a few South Africans at the club so to come up against a Sharks outfit who are loaded with Springboks and current Springboks, it’s a massive challenge for us,” the Saracens scrum half said.

“It is not a case of trying to prove yourself, so to speak. I think its wonderful I haven’t played in South Africa for seven or eight years, it will be a great challenge.

“I’ll be up against guys who were starting off when I was finishing in South Africa so it will be a great challenge. They will come over in their pre-season and be very strong so hopefully we will be able to give them a good test and a good run out come Saturday.

“It’s exciting to be playing against the old South African guys again.”

The match, which is also being screened on television in both countries, will see Steve Borthwick will captain the English side from lock,.

He is partnered by England second-rower Mouritz Botha, while in the front row, British and Irish Lions tighthead Matt prop Matt Stevens starts, and is joined by Springbok hooker Schalk Brits and Richard Barrington.

Former Blue Bulls flanker Jacques Burger returns to the side to start in the seven shirt. He is joined by former Western Province loose-forward Justin Melck and the experienced former Golden Lions No.8 Ernst Joubert in the back-row.

At half back, South African international De Kock is partnered by Charlie Hodgson.

The English Premiership’s record points scorer told the club’s wesbite: “It might seem unusual to be playing a match like this in the middle of our season, but Saracens is a club that constantly challenges conventions, and there is a real buzz around the training ground.

“The Sharks are one of the top teams in the Super XV, and we’ll have to be at our best to compete with a side including 12 Springboks.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to play against any Super Rugby team, so it will be a new experience – it’s a one-off event.”

In the Sarries midfield, Argentine international Marcelo Bosch is joined by Fijian flyer Michael Tagicakibau to form an all international centre partnership.

European rugby’s leading try scorer David Strettle starts on the left wing and is partnered by 2011 Premiership final match winner James Short on the flanks. USA international full-back Chris Wyles makes up the starting XV, playing at full-back.

Sharks director of rubgy Jake White said: ““What I enjoy about this game is that it mimics a little bit of what we can expect from the Bulls in our opening Super XV match.

“Saracens play a little bit like the Bulls: they have a big pack of forwards, their set-piece is strong, they kick a lot.

“It gives me and the coaching staff an opportunity to see the things we want to do against the Bulls, to have an idea of whether or not we can play against the Bulls in a certain way.”

Saracens: 15. Chris Wyles; 14. James Short, 13. Michael Tagicakibau, 12. Marcelo Bosch, 11. David Strettle; 10. Charlie Hodgson, 9. Neil de Kock; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. Mouritz Botha, 6. Justin Melck, 7. Jacques Burger, 8. Ernst Joubert.

Replacements: 16. Scott Spurling, 17. Nick Auterac, 18. Petrus Du Plessis, 19. Tom Jubb, 20. Takashi Kikutani, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Duncan Taylor, 23. Sam Stanley.

Sharks: 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Captain), 3. Jannie du Plessis, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 5. Pieter–Steph du Toit, 6. Tera Mtembu, 7. Jean Deysel, 8. Willem Alberts; 9. Cobus Reinach, 10. Tim Swiel; 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 14. Odwa Ndungane; 15. Tyler Fisher.

Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Stephan Lewies, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Heimar Williams, 23. Jaco van Tonder.

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