Trio back for Sharks

2014-07-15 00:00

THE Sharks regained much needed momentum ahead of the Super Rugby play-offs with somewhat of an upset victory against the Stormers over the weekend and their knockout hopes are set for a further boost with the imminent return of a certain Patrick Lambie.

The Springbok back is one of three key players likely to return to the line-up for this week’s qualifier — effectively a quarter-final — against the Highlanders at King’s Park on Saturday.

South Africa prop Tendai Mtawarira as well as in-form scrumhalf Cobus Reinach are also in line to feature, giving the Sharks a mighty boost on the back of their 34-10 win in Cape Town — a result that saw them finish third on the overall log.

But Lambie’s return is likely to grab all the headlines.

Sidelined since their fourth game when he tore a bicep, the star flyhalf has been a huge miss for the Durban side as they attempted to plug his void with three different number 10s.

Utility Springbok Frans Steyn stood in impressively, but perhaps slightly reluctantly in a position he does not entirely favour, while rookie Tim Swiel disappointed and Fred Zeilinga was too injury prone.

Director of rugby Jake White admits it will be a massive boost for his charges.

“The one thing about Lambie is that he seems to have that knack of coming back in important games and putting in a big performance,” he said. “He’s been training with us for the past couple of weeks and that’s been a big boost for everyone.

“He’s an important member of the squad and will expect to play if he is passed fit to do so.

“You might say it would be a risk to bring him straight back in, but he’s a match-winner. You will recall that he did that in a Currie Cup final a couple of years ago.”

In the likely event that Lambie is not ready, or perhaps White thinks of saving his man-of-the-match showing in a potential semi-final clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch next weekend, White has a plan.

He added: “Frans was good against the Stormers, so it is not a train smash if Lambie isn’t ready, but it will be a big boost for us if he is.”

Reinach, meanwhile, was a late withdrawal ahead of the Stormers clash having travelled to Newlands with a slight hamstring niggle, while Mtawarira was given the week off as he continues to recover from a bulging disc — a problem that saw him released early from Springbok duty during the June international break.

“Hopefully both of them will be back as well,” White said.

However, there was some concern over the fitness of JP Pietersen after he suffered concussion during a collision with Duane Vermeulen, but the Sharks boss was optimistic over his recovery in time for the Durban clash. “We took him for a scan and he failed a concussion test, which is a concern for next week,” the coach explained.

“But there are all those checks and balances you have to do and if he passes those he will be available for next week.”

The Highlanders also have their fair share of concerns, the biggest being over captain and All Blacks star Ben Smith, who has an infected leg.

The New Zealanders also have fears over front rowers Brayden Mitchell and Ma’afu Fia.

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