Kankowski back for Sharks
Ryan Kankowski, back from a six month stint in Japan, will start for the Sharks in their Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs on Saturday.
The former Springbok number eight will pack down alongside fellow loose forwards Jacques Botes and Marcell Coetzee.
Cobus Reinach starts at scrum-half ahead of Charl McLeod who provides ample ability off the bench.
Franco van der Merwe partners Anton Bresler in the second row while there are no real surprises in the backline with Pat Lambie at fly-half, captain Frans Steyn partnering Paul Jordaan in the midfield, Springboks JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo out wide and Louis Ludik completing the line-up at full-back.
"It was a case of the experience factor with the tight five I've chosen," said Sharks coach John Plumtree.
"The way the Cheetahs play influenced a lot of the selections, they have a lot of speed and genuine threats in their backline and we have to be able to match that defensively.
"We've picked a side that has the most experience for the occasion. Scrumhalf was a horses for courses selection in terms of the strengths I require for the day."
<b>The Sharks:</b> 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn (capt), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane
<b>Date:</b> Saturday, February 23<br><b>Kick-off:</b> 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)<br><b>Venue:</b> Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein<br><b>Referee:</b> Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)<br><b>Assistant referees:</b> Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)<br><b>Television match official:</b> Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)