DURBAN – It has proved providential indeed for the Sharks that in the week that flyhalf Curwin Bosch has been called up for international duty with the Junior Boks, Patrick Lambie has passed a fitness test and has been included in the Sharks squad for Saturday’s match against the Force (Kick-off: 3pm).
It could not have worked out better for coach Robert du Preez and indeed Lambie, who was injured against the Waratahs in round three. The prognosis was that it would take the Springbok flyhalf eight weeks to recover from a back injury and after eight weeks almost to the day he will sit on the bench for Saturday afternoon’s match.
In that match against New South Wales, Curwin Bosch came on for Lambie and played a blinder and has had his name in lights just about ever since, to the extent that at this stage he is the No 1 contender for the Springbok flyhalf jersey for the looming series against France.
Next week Bosch joins up with the Junior Boks for a training camp before the World Under-20 Championship in Georgia and will miss the Sharks’ match against the Kings next week in Port Elizabeth, the away match to the Sunwolves in Singapore and the home game against the Stormers on May 27.
Coach Robert du Preez said it was fortuitous that Lambie has come through right on schedule.
“It is great news that Pat is back. It has all worked out well with this week’s game being the last that Curwin will play for us until the end of the Under-20 Championships,” he said.
“We were worried that Pat would not make it back in time, but he has. We will look to give him some good game time off the bench on Saturday.”
We can assume that Lambie will then slot back in at 10 for the matches against the Kings and hopefully the rugby gods will smile favourably on a player that has had more than his fair share of injuries.
If Lambie can put together a string of games for the Sharks and find his best form, he might well play his way into Springbok contention for the series against June given the injury to Handre Pollard, although at this stage he is well behind Bosch and Elton Jantjies.
In fact it is best to avoid talking about Lambie and the Boks altogether given the indecent haste with which he was rushed back from injury by Allister Coetzee last year, which did neither Lambie or the Boks any favours because he was so rusty.
Du Preez has made some interesting changes on the wings. He is giving a debut to explosive 2016 SA Under-20 wing Sbu Nkosi in place of Odwa Ndungane, and Kobus van Wyk is back from injury for Lwazi Mvovo.
“Sbu has great talent and it was touch and go to pick him for the Jaguares game. In the end we opted for Odwa’s experience. But now Sbu has an opportunity at home and he is raring to,” the coach said.
In the forwards, there is the customary rotational switch at lock, with Etienne Oosthuizen swopping places with Stephan Lewies, and Ruan Botha retaining his place in the second row.
Coenie Oosthuizen was on the bench against the Jaguares but is back in the starting line-up for Lourens Adriaanse and Chiliboy Ralepelle is retained at hooker ahead of Franco Marais. Thomas du Toit is preferred at loosehead prop for The Beast, who is on the bench.
Du Preez said that he is convinced that the spirited win over the Argentineans is a “momentum changer”.
“It was hugely important for our log standing but also vital for getting our game on track. We had to play well, and we did,” Du Preez said.
“We asked for big individual performances and the forwards provided. In the past, teams have battled in Buenos Aires because of the hostile environment but we turned it around and made the best of the atmosphere. The guys were really up for it.”
Du Preez said his players had to pay a debt to their fans after some poor performances at Kings Park this season and that meant stepping up against “one of the best coached teams in the Aussie Conference”.
“The Force are a very good side. They have been consistently competitive. We are expecting a very tough encounter.”
Sharks team: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (c), 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coeni Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit. Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Johan Deysel.
Force team: 15. Marcel Brache, 14. James Verity-Amm, 13. Curtis Rona, 12. Billy Meakes, 11. Alex Newsome, 10. Jono Lance, 9. Ian Prior, 8. Isireli Naisarani, 7. Matt Hodgson (captain), 6. Brynard Stander, 5. Adam Coleman, 4. Ross Haylett-Petty, 3. Tetara Faulkner, 2. Tatafu Polata-Nau, 1. Pek Cowan. Replacements: 16. Heath Tessmann, 17. Francios van Wyk, 18. Shambeckler Vui, 19. Lewis Carmichael, 20. Richard Hardwick, 21. Mitchell Short, 22. Luke Burton, 23. Peter Grant