‘Pat gives side a lift’

2014-07-18 00:00

THE return of Patrick Lambie was the most significant selection when the Sharks yesterday announced their matchday 23 to face the Highlanders in their Super Rugby play-off qualifier at King’s Park in Durban tomorrow.

Although the star flyhalf was only named on the bench, Jake White felt his inclusion after nearly four months out would be a significant boost for the clash against the New Zealanders.

There was one starting change made by the Sharks’ director of rugby, who brought back first-choice Cobus Reinach, withdrawn late against the Stormers last week due to a hamstring injury, for Charl McLeod.

Lambie was one of two changes on the bench.

The 23-year-old, out since late March with a torn bicep which forced him to undergo surgery, took over from Fred Zeilinga, while prop Dale Chadwick was named instead of Wiehahn Herbst.

It was all about Lambie finally returning, though, for the Durbanites, who will be hoping he can also get some competitive game-time ahead of a possible semi-final and final in the weeks ahead.

“There was a temptation to start him, but I thought after last week’s performance [the 34-10 win at Newlands], the backs were quite solid,” White said of the selection. “To be fair, the Highlanders’ backs are quite physical and they got some good runners, so I didn’t really want to re-jig the backline again this week. I think to get a bit of consistency there is probably better.

“Hopefully if all things go well, Pat comes off the bench and gets in some game time then at least if we advance to the next round we have him fit and available.”

White explained that having a player of the calibre of Lambie in his playing squad was significant in its own right as it gave a tremendous lift to the players.

“With him just in the 23 it gives us so much more confidence, young boys and players that have been around, just when they hear his voice and the contributions he makes on and off the field, it gives you a massive boost,” he said.

One player that did not make the team was Tendai Mtawarira, who is still suffering with a neck problem since his early release from Springbok duty last month.

“He’s better, but not 100%,” White said. “We’ll rest him this week and hopefully next week he can play.”

In the absence of “Beast”, White opted to stick with rookie Thomas du Toit — the 19-year-old who played for the U20 Springboks at the IRB Junior World Championship recently.

The teenager has enjoyed a dream few weeks after making his debut off the bench in a defeat to the Cheetahs two weeks ago, before starting and grabbing his opportunity with two hands in Cape Town.

“He was outstanding last week in the mud and the way he grew in confidence was great,” his coach said. “That’s just looking at his scrumming, I thought his all-round game of tackling, carrying and his pick-and-drive game were outstanding.”

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