at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Durban - Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis says the imminent return of Patrick Lambie will be a massive boost for the Sharks when they take on the Highlanders in their Super Rugby qualifier on Saturday.
The coastal franchise have been without their star flyhalf since late March when he suffered a torn bicep against the Bulls.
At the time, he was expected to be out for six months, but has made a quicker than expected recovery and is likely to feature in Durban.
Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira could also return after missing both games since the June international break with a bulging disc.
“We have a really good squad, and in most positions we have depth,” Du Plessis said on Tuesday.
“That really helps us when we get to this stage.
“We'll hopefully get Pat and Beast (Mtawarira) back as well, so that also provides a massive lift for the team, and brings a new energy and vibe to the team.”
Also expected to return is scrum Cobus Reinach following a hamstring injury that forced him to be withdrawn just before kick-off of the 34-10 weekend win over the Stormers in Cape Town.
There was further good news at the start of the week as centre JP Pietersen appeared fine following the concussion he suffered in a clash of heads with Duane Vermeulen at Newlands - an injury that forced him to leave the field after only 18 minutes.
Du Plessis revealed he was on the road to recovery after taking a blow to his neck against the Stormers.
“I took quite a bad knock to the neck quite early in the game and it was quite sore,” he said.
“But we'll see what happens on Saturday.”
The veteran hooker, who will win his 119th Super Rugby cap against the New Zealanders, was pleased how his team responded in the Cape following back-to-back losses to the Stormers and Cheetahs in their previous two games.
“I think we let ourselves down with the last two losses, but really just wanted to play good rugby, we took it minute-by-minute and the guys really responded very well,” he said.
“We've played well throughout the season. I think we let ourselves down thrice through the year, when we weren't happy. I won't say I was surprised (by how well we played in the last game), I was almost expecting that from the guys to really respond well.”
Du Plessis did warn his side they could not afford any complacency against a side that had already beaten them earlier in the campaign Äthe men from Otago inflicted a surprise 34-18 loss on the Sharks in April.
“Against us the last time here their forwards were really physical and were really dominant in the tight loose,” he added.
“We really have to be up for the challenge and really need to put our mark of authority over them.”
The winner of the clash will face the Crusaders in Christchurch next week.