Pat’s return a boost

2014-07-25 00:00

STAR flyhalf Patrick Lambie will make his first start for the Sharks in over four months after he was among three personnel changes made by director of rugby Jake White for tomorrow’s big Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Lock Stephan Lewies was also declared fit to start in the second row, where he will have versatile loose forward Willem Alberts for company after a rib injury ruled out Anton Bresler.

Jean Deysel is the third change and will get a desperate chance to redeem himself following his red card against the same opponents during May, coming in on the flank to replace Alberts.

That is not the only positional change, with Lambie’s availability also allowing White to move Steyn back to his more favoured centre role alongside Paul Jordaan as S’bura Sithole makes way to the bench.

Lewies, meanwhile, a late withdrawal from the 31-27 play-off qualifier victory over the Highlanders due to a knee complaint, comes in for the man who replaced him, fellow lock Etienne Oosthuizen.

But the return of Lambie is the big one. The Springbok back, sidelined since late March after undergoing surgery on a torn bicep, played 12 minutes off the bench last weekend and was praised considerably by White for the feeling of calm he brought with him into the pivot position.

The Sharks boss had hinted post-match that he may pick him, but few would have thought it would have come after less than a quarter of an hour of playing time.

“It will be a tough call,” White said at the time. “It’s something that’s good for me because when it does happen, it makes you feel like you’re in a position of strength. I know that it doesn’t matter who we decide on because everybody on the field will give their best.

“One of the things Pat has done in the past is he’s managed to come back from injuries and played really well in his first few games. He has that knack to turn in man-of-the-match performances.”

Apart from White, several of the senior players have spoken about the boost they have been given by the return of the College Rovers ace.

It can also be seen as a double boost for the Durban side as Steyn too gets his wish by moving back to the midfield from the number 10 position he has occupied for most of the season.

Flanker Desyel will be more determined than anyone to make amends after what happened on the last trip to Christchurch.

He received a red card only 16 minutes into the contest for a stamp on the head of Jordan Taufua, copping a three-week ban in the process, and at the time leaving his Sharks team-mates with only 14 men on the park. But they did manage to produce the biggest upset of the season with a famous 30-25 win.

It is a result like that that leaves White with plenty of confidence heading into the weekend.

“We know if we play well enough, we can beat the Crusaders because we’ve done it before,” he added.

“It’s knockout rugby and it’s a whole new game, but it’s meaningless what’s happened before and how many All Blacks they have, and what the history books say. I’m a big believer that this group of players can beat anybody.”

Sharks team: S.P. Marais, J.P. Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Francois Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Thomas du Toit. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Etienne Oosthuizen, Lubabalo Mtembu, Charl McLeod, S’bura Sithole, Tonderai Chavhanga.

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