There is still no sign of Patrick Lambie on the greater Sharks landscape, but there was a surprising selection at flyhalf for the Sharks’ vital Super Rugby match against the Stormers in Cape Town tomorrow.
Youngster Tim Swiel has vanished from the position altogether and the battered hero from the overseas tour, Frans Steyn, is back in the No 10 jersey after a stint at No 12 during the unfortunate visit last week to the Cheetahs.
He will be covered from the bench by Fred Zeilinga, who has been making his way back to full fitness through club rugby matches for Durban Collegians.
There are the expected returns to the tight five, with captain Bismarck du Plessis back at hooker alongside his brother Jannie. Youngster Thomas du Toit completes the front row.
Last week’s loosehead prop, Dale Chadwick, is injured after playing well in a rare start.
Ryan Kankowski is back at No 8 after pulling out injured last week, and centre Paul Jordaan is also over a niggle that kept him out of the Cheetahs match.
On the flank, youngster Marcell Coetzee keeps his place ahead of veteran Jean Deysel, the captain last week.
“Patrick is still not available, but should be back next week (for the quarter-final),” said coach Jake White.
“We have a couple of niggles, bumps and bruises. Tera Mtembu is not 100 percent either. If we look at playing a knock-out game next week, and possibly the following week, and who knows after that (the final), we need to make sure we have a clean bill of health,” White said.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves, even if we have to play a quarter-final, a semi-final and the final, so we need to look at having all our players available for this vital part of the season.”
Swiel, who struggled at times against the Cheetahs while also showing that he has potential for the future, has been demoted to the Sharks’ U21 team.
“There is an under-21 game that Tim will be part of. It’s their first outing in the Absa competition, so it’s only fair we pick our strongest side at that level, and Fred’s back this week,” White said. “Frans and Paul formed a good combination against the Crusaders and Blues (in the tour games) before Paul got injured. So we are just going back to what’s worked for us in the big games.”
That includes big JP Pietersen at outside centre, where he forms a challenging combination with the nippy Jordaan
“JP was man of the match in a Test match (against Scotland) two weeks ago at outside centre,” White said of picking the player out of his customary position of wing.
“It’s much easier to keep him there rather than swop him back and forth between there and wing – it’s not fair on him.”
The Sharks early in the week distanced themselves from the likelihood that they will have to beat the Stormers by a big score to get past a Crusaders team tipped to beat the Highlanders in Christchurch to secure second position.
“We didn’t really take too much emotion out of the Cheetahs game just because we didn’t get a result,” White said.
“But at the same time, if you’re going to go into these play-offs, you need to get some winning momentum and some cohesion going. The message is plain and clear – we need to get on an aeroplane and get a result in Cape Town – whatever way we do it.”
The Sharks will know where they stand by kick-off at Newlands because the Crusaders would have played the Highlanders in the morning.
“There are positives and negatives to that,” White said.
“You know what your destiny is, whether you need a bonus point or just to grind out a win. But the Stormers have shown in the past that it’s difficult to get a bonus point there at the best of times. We want to make sure, first and foremost, we win.” - The Mercury