Johannesburg – Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie has been given a starting berth for his side's all-important Super Rugby semi-final match against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
Lambie's inclusion comes a week after he made a successful return from a long-term injury, playing off the bench in the Sharks' 31-27 victory over the Highlanders in their playoff qualifier in Durban over the weekend.
His inclusion prompted a reshuffle in the backline. It sees Frans Steyn move from flyhalf to inside centre where he will partner with Paul Jordaan on his outside.
JP Pietersen, who donned the number 13 jersey last weekend, will play on the right wing at the expense of S'Bura Sithole.
In the only change to the forward pack Willem Alberts has been moved to the second row in the place of injured Anton Bresler.
Jean Deysel in turn comes into the starting line-up to fill in at the side of the scrum in Alberts's place.
Sharks director of rugby Jake White said while they faced an uphill battle against the seven-time champions, he believed his charges would be up for the challenge.
“The Crusaders are a phenomenal team. We’re under no illusions of how good they are and what they’ve achieved, but we have to prepare as best we can to give ourselves a chance,” White said on Thursday.
“They have players in their team who won the Rugby World Cup a few years ago. They have guys who are consistently in playoff games.
“The team hasn’t missed out on playoff rugby in a long time, and all these guys have been part and parcel of playoff games.
“So I have no doubt that with the team they have available and the experience they have, they’ll be a massive force.”
History is firmly stacked against the Sharks in pursuit of their maiden Super Rugby title as only three teams have managed to win a semi-final away from home in the past 11 seasons.
However, the Sharks will find some inspiration from their previous meeting with the Crusaders at their stomping ground.
The coastal side scored a historic 30-25 away victory despite playing most of the match with 14 men and for 10 minutes with only 13.
Sharks team: SP Marais, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Etienne Oosthuizen, Tera Mtembu, Charl McLeod, S'bura Sithole, Tonderai Chavhanga. – Sapa