Jake places faith in Swiel
Gavin Rich, SuperSport
Durban - Hamstring injuries are making their presence felt in the camp of the Cell C Sharks ahead of the final home game before they embark on their Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australasia on Sunday.
According to the supersport.com website, Sharks coach Jake White has already noted a few times this season the importance of home ground advantage, and he will have that on his mind as he prepares his team for Friday night’s clash with the unpredictable Highlanders at Kings Park.
His men have a comfortable cushion at the top of the log and even more so when it comes to the South African conference table, but he won’t want them to slip up on the eve of what could be a tough tour for them.
The way things have gone this season, particularly for South African teams on tour, nothing can be taken for granted, and White knows that none of the games his men will play will be easy.
For instance, they start off against the Rebels, who used to be regarded as the whipping boys in the competition, but they have been anything but that on their home field and beat the high-riding Western Force in Melbourne this past weekend.
The good news for the Sharks is that Patrick Lambie is expected back before the end of the season.
The first choice flyhalf has reportedly made good progress from his torn bicep, and could be able to play the last few league games and the play-offs once the teams come back from their June break for the international window.
However, of more pressing concern for White right now will be the fact that JP Pietersen, Tonderai Chavhanga, Fred Zeilinga and Paul Jordaan will all be out of the selection mix when he announces his team on Wednesday.
That is starting to leave the Sharks looking a bit thin at the back, and although he is hopeful Odwa Ndungane will be it, it doesn’t sound like that is a guarantee either.
And while Frans Steyn is said to be ready to play on Friday, it is also clear that he may be in need of a rest as he carries an extra load in the absence of experienced players who have been lost to injury from the backline.
The Durban media made a bit of a fuss about Steyn grimacing towards the end of the win over the Cheetahs, but White says he will be ready for the last home push against the Highlanders.
"He will grimace every week! He is fine.
"Frans does need to take a break but he will be fine for this week, especially when we have a lot of guys at the moment who are all 50-50," said White.
The coach added that Steyn understands that he may have to bide his time until the team starts to get players back from injury.
"Frans is very important to the team, particularly with a new No 10 in Tim Swiel," added White.
It looks as though Swiel will continue at flyhalf against the Highlanders even though there have been renewed calls from critics for Steyn to be moved to pivot.
"It has been a difficult one. Tim has done okay for a 20-year-old coming in and having to take the step up.
"Do you change it again?
"We brought Tim here and we must back him.
"We have invested almost two games in him now and he is getting the feeling of what it is like to play Super Rugby.
"He’s got something.
"He’s not your average player."