Durban – Springbok back Patrick Lambie has returned to the Sharks squad to face the Highlanders in their Super Rugby playoff at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
The star flyhalf, out for almost four months with a biceps injury, had to be content to be among the replacements though, as director of rugby Jake White made just one change to his starting XV in a match which is effectively a quarterfinal.
The change comes at scrumhalf where Cobus Reinach, a late withdrawal against the Stormers last week with a hamstring injury, comes back for Charl McLeod, who drops back to the bench.
“Having someone like Pat back provides a massive lift for the team, and brings a new energy and vibe to everyone,” captain Bismarck du Plessis said earlier this week.
Lambie, who sustained his injury against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on March 22, replaces Fred Zeilinga on the bench, where there is also a place for prop Dale Chadwick instead of Wiehahn Herbst.
Another Bok, Tendai Mtawarira, has failed to make the matchday squad as he continued his recovery from a bulging disc, which saw him released early from Springbok duty last month. His absence means national under-20 prop Thomas du Toit gets a home debut.
Centre JP Pietersen is also fit, despite having to leave the field in the 34-10 win in Cape Town with concussion.
The Durban side lost their last meeting against the Highlanders at Kings Park in April and White expects a strong reaction from his troops this time as they bid to seal a semi-final showdown with the Crusaders in Christchurch next weekend.
“In a lot of ways, it’s probably a good thing for us, a boost that they beat us,” the Sharks boss said.
“Had we beaten them comfortably perhaps we would have gone into this game thinking it was a fait accompli. In a lot of ways we get to have another crack at them.
“There is no doubt that the Highlanders are a team that can score tries, they have the players. When they are on song, they can perform Ä they beat some big teams this year.
“We'll be a lot more focused this week.”
The Sharks team: SP Marais, S'bura Sithole, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan Lwazi Mvovo, Frans Steyn, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Etienne Oosthuizen, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Patrick Lambie, Tonderai Chavhanga. – Sapa