at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Sharks fullback Pat Lambie is doubtful for the Super Rugby semi-final showdown with the Stormers on Saturday and he has been joined on the hobbles list by centre Paul Jordaan.
The omens do not look good for Lambie, who is still struggling with the ankle injury that kept him out of the qualifier against the Reds in Brisbane.
The Jordaan injury comes as a blow to Sharks coach John Plumtree as he battles to cover several key positions in the backline for the Newlands clash.
Jordaan first picked up the hamstring injury when playing for the Baby Boks in the Junior World Championships, which ruled him out of the game against the Bulls earlier this month, but he recovered in time to play off the bench in the final pool match.
His return was a timely one after Frans Steyn was deemed ineligible for the play-offs. Plumtree, though, said there was still a chance he would recover in time to face the Stormers.
Fortunately for the Sharks, Louis Ludik has impressed as Lambie’s replacement at fullback so far, while Meyer Bosman would be likely to join Tim Whitehead in the midfield if Jordaan is unable to come through a fitness test later in the week.
Having returned to Durban on Sunday night, Plumtree said they would have to manage the players carefully in order to ensure they are refreshed and ready for game day.
“Everyone will feel better as the week goes on and by the time Saturday comes we’ll be ready to go,” he said.
“We’ll be up for it alright, but we’ve got to be smart about our preparation this week. Everyone will be talking about the travel factor, but we knew we’d have to travel again if we got through our play-off; it just depended where we’d be going.
“We’ve had to come back to South Africa and the players are positive, at least they can sleep in their own beds and spend time with family. It’s always nice coming home.”
Reflecting on their big win at the weekend, Plumtree acknowledged it was the performance of their season.
“I thought the boys played some great rugby. I was really proud of the way they performed, we had to absorb a lot of pressure, but the way we defended said a lot about the effort.
“Our tackle stats were right up there and we spent a lot of time in our 22 in the second half. But our attack was good in the first half, and our defence was impressive in the second half, and in between the set piece functioned well.”
However, Plumtree admitted there was a different prospect facing them this weekend.
“This season the Stormers beat us at Newlands and we beat them in Durban. It’s the nature of (Stormers coach) Allister (Coetzee) and I to talk up the opposition, but I’ve always really admired the Stormers.
“They’re obviously well led because they’ve performed so consistently and finished on top of the SA conference. They very rarely lose at home and it will be a huge challenge for us.
“I’m sure the Stormers will have been doing a lot of preparation after having the extra week off. We’ve built up some good momentum over the last few weeks, but we are coming up against a different animal this week, there are pros and cons for both sides.
“The Stormers have built a game-plan around discipline and consistency. They’ve got a big pack and a game based on territory and wearing the opposition down.” - The Mercury