While the Sharks are virtually certain that Patrick Lambie will pass concussion tests today to take his place in the No 10 jersey to play the Cheetahs in a vital Super Rugby clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday, the Cheetahs promptly dropped the flyhalf that had an indifferent game against the Stormers last week, Sias Ebersohn, for the unheralded Riaan Smit.
The Free Staters, of course, are suffering heavily from the season-ending injury to superstar Johan Goosen, who was arguably the form flyhalf of the entire competition.
Lambie has been rested from contact sessions this week but his coach, John Plumtree, has said he is confident that he will play. Plumtree is also waiting on the bicep injury sustained by rapidly improving fullback Louis Ludik.
For the Cheetahs, the change at flyhalf is the only one to the side that came close to beating the Stormers at Newlands.
Youngster Smit replaced Ebersohn in the second half in Cape Town and Ebersohn is relegated to the bench.
From the Sharks’ point of view, backline coach Grant Bashford yesterday summed up the mood in the camp: “One of the most important things from the big win over the Force is the confidence that has been generated. We’ve been battling away, with a lot of close games, and struggled to put back-to-back victories together. It’s important to take that forward going into the upcoming derby games.
“The situation we find ourselves in now is that every game is vital and we can’t take our foot off the pedal. That’s so often the way it is as you get to the tail end of the competition. There’s pressure to perform every week and we just need to keep rising to the occasion.
“More than anything, having guys return to fitness has given us more options in selection,” Bashford continued. “ It’s a really tough competition, so when some of your senior players are out, it puts a lot of pressure on other guys to perform week in and week out. So it’s important to be able to have guys coming in that are fresh and can really make an impact. Suddenly your bench has a different look to it and the starting line-up has that extra bit of energy. We started the competition with a fair amount of injuries, but thankfully that situation has improved.”
Cheetahs starting XV: Hennie Daniller, Cameron Jacobs, Robert Ebersohn, Andries Strauss, Willie le Roux, Riaan Smit, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Justin Downey, Heinrich Brüssow, George Earle, Izak van der Westhuizen, WP Nel, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Hercu Liebenberg, Trevor Nyakane, Andries Ferreira, Ashley Johnson, Tewis de Bruyn, Sias Ebersohn, Philip Snyman