Franco Smith has dismissed suggestions the Sharks are sending a weakened time to face Glasgow Warriors despite the South African side making 15 changes from last weekend's win over Edinburgh.

The South African side sent Edinburgh packing in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup last Saturday but have decided to leave many of their big names out of the squad to face Glasgow at Scotstoun on Friday night.

World Cup winners Eben Etzebeth and Lukhayno Am are among those who won’t travel to Glasgow, but Smith is still wary of the challenge that faces his side.

The Sharks' fellow South African team the Bulls were heavily criticised for the team they sent to face Northampton Saints in the Investec Champions Cup last week and were accused of disrespecting the competition.

Smith defended the Sharks – and the Bulls – for their team selections and put a warning out to anyone who might underestimate the task at hand when Glasgow take to the field on Friday night.

Asked if he felt John Plumtree's side had disrespected the URC, Smith said: “No, not at all. Not at all. That would be the furthest thing from the truth.

"They’ve got a very good squad. The reason we haven’t seen their whole squad as often is because they were losing at the beginning of the season.

“They started off with their first four games away from home, a new coach, a new assistant coach, new S&C, and the Springboks who were at the World Cup weren’t involved until January.

“There were so many ingredients that unsettled them.

“I’m very wary that this team has not yet been seen as a collective. I come from South Africa and I know every player and they’ve recruited very well. That is a much stronger team than anyone will give them credit for.

“Even the Bulls team they fielded [v Northampton], I’m not going to comment on that because I will put my finger in hot water.

“The important thing here is that the URC is about playing with 50 players who can put their hand up at any time and take responsibility, and then injuries like the ones we’ve got don’t influence the outcome of games.

Scotland Rugby News: Franco Smith

“The Sharks have that squad, they have that quality, it’s just taken them a little more time to come together.

“In that team a lot of those players will be chomping at the bit now. Ever since the tide has turned for them they haven’t had a chance to add their value.

“I’m actually wary of them as some of those players would like to  put their hand up for selection for their semi-final and maybe also the final.

“Regardless of the way the world perceives them without their Springboks, that is still a very, very good team and that makes them dangerous. From our own experience the young guys will want to prove a point and this is their opportunity. Any win against us will be a big one for them.”

Smith has made two changes to the team that lost to Harlequins last time out, with Rory Darge ruled out with an ankle problem and Josh McKay ill. 

READ MORE: Stafford McDowall wants Glasgow to make home advantage count against Sharks

Smith hopes to have Scotland co-captain Darge back for the trip to South Africa next month but he’s been replaced by Henco Venter in the starting XV, while Kyle Rowe moves to full back to cover McKay's absence, with Facundo Cordero in on the wing for his third start for the club.

Nathan McBeth, Johnny Matthews and Zander Fagerson keep their places in the front row while it’s a continuation of the Max Williamson and Scott Cummings partnership in the engine room.

Venter comes into the back row alongside Matt Fagerson and Jack Dempsey while George Horne and Tom Jordan combine at half-back.

Sione Tuipulotu and Stafford McDowall start in the midfield, with Cordero joining Rowe and captain Kyle Steyn in the back three.

Oli Kebble could make his 100th appearance from the bench.

And when asked about Darge’s injury, Smith said: “It’s not that serious. It’s an irritated tendon so if we can, we would like to have him 100 percent to go to South Africa. The better we manage him in the next three weeks the better chance we will have."

Smith explained Darge picked up the knock in training. 

He added: He was walking and felt the irritation after doing the full training.

"In pre-season this year he trained on grass with Scotland most of the time and now the difference surface that we train on might cause a little bit of irritation here and there.

“We’ve noticed that before. It’s maybe just a training surface thing. We do a lot of lineouts and it might be a bit of a strain there.

"We always look at finding the source so we can have a solution but there’s not a specific thing we can find with this one.”

Scotland Rugby News: Scotland co-captain Rory Darge

There’s also some good news for Richie Gray and Huw Jones, with both potentially being fit in time for the play-offs while Sebastian Cancelliere will return to training next week, but George Turner has had surgery to remove his appendix while recovering from his foot injury.

He continued: “Most of them will be back around the Zebre game, just before the quarters - Jamie Bhatti, Huw Jones will be touch and go [and] Richie Gray. 

“George Turner had a little operation this week to remove his appendix. Fortunately, it happened while his foot was injured so both of these things can recover at the same time and he will be touch and go towards the end of the season.

“Sione Vailanu is also training well and he and Seb are on the same track. We’ll see if they can start training with us from next week onwards to try to make sure they are available for selection before we go to South Africa.

“JP [Du Preez], Ollie Smith and Fraser Brown are the three guys who will definitely not be involved before the end of the season.”

The teams

Glasgow Warriors:  Kyle Rowe, Kyle Steyn (captain), Stafford McDowall, Sione Tuipulotu, Facundo Cordero, Tom Jordan,  George Horne, Nathan McBeth, Johnny Matthews, Zander Fagerson, Max Williamson, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, Henco Venter, Jack Dempsey

Replacements: Gregor Hiddleston, Oli Kebble, Lucio Sordoni, Sintu Manjezi, Ally Miller, Tom Gordon, Jamie Dobie, Ross Thompson

Sharks:  Boeta Chamberlain, Eduan Keyter, Murray Koster, Francois Venter (captain), Aphiwe Dyantyi, Curwin Bosch, Grant Williams, Nick Hatton, Lappies Labuschagne, Tino Mavesere, Gebrandt Grobler, Corne Rahl, Hanro Jacobs, Dan Jooster, Ntuthuko Mchunu.

Replacements: Fez Mbatha, Khwezi Mona, Vincent Koch, Emile van Heerden, Vincent Tshituka, Cameron Wright, Siya Masuku, Ethan Hooker