Sharks prop Tendai Mtawarira is still on the sidelines with a knee injury. Photo: BackpagePix

DURBAN – The Sharks have been dealt an injury blow as front-rowers Akker van der Merwe and Tendai Mtawarira have been ruled out of their side’s Super Rugby match against the Lions in Durban on Saturday.

Van der Merwe is struggling with a shoulder injury, while Mtawarira is battling a left knee problem.

Fellow front-rower Craig Burden (bicep) and wing Lwazi Mvovo (ankle) will need a further two weeks before they are ready for action.

Prop Thomas du Toit is a doubtful starter for the weekend as he attempts to recover from an ankle sprain in time.

Sharks assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher said: “We know it’s going to be tough against a quality side that loves playing attacking rugby.

“We expect a physical match, South African derbies always are, but the players are in a good space and took some nice momentum from the tour. We’ll be looking to take that momentum into the next four games.

“Like us, the Lions will be preparing as well as they can for this game.

“But we will also be looking to build on the momentum we gained out of the tour. There’s a good spirit within the team and the players came back from the bye with lots of energy.

“The vibe in the camp is great at the moment.”

The Lions had to work hard, but eventually saw off the visiting Highlanders over the weekend, a 38-29 victory securing a hard-earned result and a warning that they are a competitive side.

“There were a lot of points scored in that match, we know that’s how they prefer to play, so we expect them to come to Durban with that same attacking DNA,” Loubscher said.

“Both teams love to play ball-in-hand rugby and it’s about who is clinical on the day, who takes their opportunities. But it’s going to take an 80-minute effort from us.

“From our side, it’s all about making sure we prepare and prepare well. Our focus is to bring lots of energy to this week’s preparations.”

Both teams come into this game in a good head-space and confidence. The Sharks had a good tour, while the Lions have won their last two matches, which bodes well for an exciting clash between the two foes.

With four games remaining (two home and two away) in a tightly contested South African Conference, there are just six points separating the five teams and no clear favourite to win the conference.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting challenge, the players and coaching staff can’t wait for Saturday,” Loubscher said.

“Right now, we don’t see this as a must-win time in our campaign, it’s really about enjoyment, about going out there and playing for your team-mates and the guy next to you.

“It’s going to come down to the bounce of the ball – hopefully in our favour – and we know it’s going to be tough. It’s also about taking your opportunities.”

African News Agency (ANA)