Connacht centre Shayne Bolton is back in his homeland of South Africa and looking forward to this Saturday’s encounter away to the Emirates Lions at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, kick-off 15:05PM (Irish time)


Shayne made the move to Connacht this season and is hoping to get a starting spot in Andy Friend’s match day squad over the next two weekends with two games in South Africa.


“It is my first time back in South Africa in about nine months” said the South African.


“My parents and girlfriend were waiting for me at the airport when we arrived and the place where we are staying there’s a few restaurants nearby and I’ve been able to have dinner with them and catch up”


Playing at altitude is always one of the key adjustments for travelling teams when playing in South Africa and Shayne has been giving advice to team mates on what to expect.


“I have been telling the guys about the altitude and hot weather over here on the way but at least it’s not as hot as it usually is”


“Usually in the warmups you feel way more tired when training or playing at altitude and your muscles feel more fatigued, but once you get your second breath you get on well”


Emirates Airline Park or known to many as Ellis Park is the venue for this Saturday’s United Rugby Championship match and it’s a stadium Shayne has played at before.


“I’m from Pretoria which is just down the road from Johannesburg”


“I have played at Ellis Park a few times”


“Hopefully there will be a big crowd, its usually very hot in the stadium and there wouldn’t really be a breeze blowing through it”


Emirates Lions have been in good form of late winning four of their last five matches in the URC.


“I think they’ve got a lot of x factor with a few of their players, and they aren’t afraid to play less experienced players, so you are bound to make mistakes when you have new guys coming in but as the season has gone on they have been getting better as the players are getting more game time”


“We have to manage the momentum of the game and see how our lungs are going and see how the pack is going”


It’s been a new experience for Shayne leaving home and coming to the West of Ireland, but he has enjoyed his journey so far working with the management and players around him.


“It has been really enjoyable, but it was hard at the start missing family and with covid around, but I’ve made loads of good friends and the people have been looking after me so well in Galway who are very nice people and so friendly”


After a five-week absence Connacht return to URC action tomorrow night against Ospreys at The Sportsground.
The matchday squad has now been named with 4 changes to the starting XV that impressively saw off Ulster at the Aviva Stadium last month.
Summer signing Shayne Bolton will make his Connacht debut – the 20-year old is named at outside centre where he forms a partnership with Sammy Arnold. There’s two further changes in the back three with Alex Wootton making his first appearance of the season on the wing, and Oran McNulty handed his first Connacht start at full-back. The in-form Mack Hansen starts on the opposite wing, while Kieran Marmion and captain Jack Carty continue at 9 and 10 respectively.
The tight five is changed with a front row of Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, with Ballina native Heffernan making his 150th appearance for this home province. There’s a second row pairing of Niall Murray and Ultan Dillane, and the final change is in the back row where Jarrad Butler starts at blindside flanker, opposite Conor Oliver and Paul Boyle completing the side from number 8.
Among those on the bench is Peter Robb who could make his first appearance since February if called upon.
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“Everyone had a deserved few days off after the Aviva game and we’ve since spent the last few weeks fully focussed on getting a win tomorrow night. Ospreys have made a really good start to their season and they’re always difficult to play against, so everyone knows we have to push on from our interpro performances to get the win we need.
Shayne Bolton has settled in really well since arriving from South Africa so he’s deserving of a start, and it’s a special game for Dave Heffernan and Ballina RFC on the day of his 150th appearance.”

Friday 26th November, The Sportsground @ 19:35
Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. Oran McNulty (2)
14. Alex Wootton (22)
13. Shayne Bolton *
12. Sammy Arnold (21)
11. Mack Hansen (5)
10. Jack Carty (164) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (191)
1. Matthew Burke (28)
2. Dave Heffernan (149)
3. Finlay Bealham (164)
4. Niall Murray (21)
5. Ultan Dillane (119)
6. Jarrad Butler (78)
7. Conor Oliver (25)
8. Paul Boyle (62)

16. Shane Delahunt (105)
17. Jordan Duggan (17)
18. Jack Aungier (18)
19. Oisín Dowling (11)
20. Eoghan Masterson (113)
21. Caolin Blade (135)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (39)
23. Peter Robb (47)

Connacht Rugby have further boosted their options for next season with the signing of versatile, Irish-qualified South African Shayne Bolton.
Bolton, whose grandmother is from Dublin, will arrive at Connacht with a reputation as one of the brightest young prospects in South African rugby. The 20-year old represents the University of Free State in the Varsity Cup and also impressed in the U21 SA Championship.
A powerful and skillful ball carrier, his ability to play centre and anywhere across the back three will be a major boost to Andy Friend’s side heading into next season.
The Head Coach has explained how the move came about:
“After we learned of Shayne’s availability and his Irish ancestry, we kept an eye on his progression and did some further work to confirm his playing ability. It quickly became apparent that he was the type of player that could add real value to our squad. He has been turning heads in South Africa with his recent performances and, while he’s still only 20-years of age, he has all the attributes to become a top class professional player.
Players with versatility are a key component we look for in our Squad mix, and Shayne fits that category perfectly. He started off at fullback and on the wing before moving to centre in the last year or two, so we’re looking forward to his arrival and seeing how best to integrate him into the squad.”

Shayne Bolton says Connacht is the perfect place to begin his pro career:
“After numerous chats with Andy and Tim (Allnutt) I knew this was an opportunity I had to take. They spoke about how they pride themselves in developing players and I immediately felt that Connacht was the right place to take my game to the next level. I can’t wait to reconnect with my Irish roots and get ready for the season ahead.”
Connacht’s recruitment remains ongoing and further announcements will be made in due course.


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