Sharks will remain understrength for Cheetahs
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Durban - The Cell C Sharks went into their key Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Emirates Lions understrength, particularly at the back, and that looks set to remain the case when they go into their must win penultimate game of the regular season against the Toyota Cheetahs.
The man the Sharks will be sweating on most this week will be regular captain Patrick Lambie, who has been out since he was concussed playing for the Springboks in the first test against Ireland more than three weeks ago. Lambie’s unflappable and calm approached was sorely missed in the intense atmosphere created by the concerted early Lions onslaught two days ago.
There is a chance he will be fit to return for the Cheetahs game, but it will depend on him improving in his responses to the tests carried out as part of the routine post-concussion protocol. Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold will be holding thumbs he comes through, particularly as Springbok fullback Willie le Roux has been ruled out of the match against his former team.
Le Roux was ruled out with the suspension he incurred in the last test against Ireland when the Sharks went to Johannesburg at the weekend, but he is also struggling with an AC shoulder joint injury he suffered playing the last test against Ireland in Port Elizabeth. The Sharks medical staff have confirmed that he will not be available this week.
Also out is centre Andre Esterhuizen, who sustained a hamstring strain late last week and did not start against the Lions, thus forcing JP Pietersen to switch to the midfield from wing. Paul Jordaan is likely to join his regular centre partner on the sidelines after leaving the field in Johannesburg with a knee injury that is still being assessed.
The injury toll at forward is not nearly as dire as it is among the backs, though Dan du Preez remains sidelined with the groin strain he sustained before the June break. Although his recovery is said to be on track, he will not play this week and is doubtful for the final regular season game against the Sunwolves too.
Although the defeat to the Lions ended any flickering hope the Sharks may have had of topping Africa Conference 2 and thus hosting the initial play-off game, the Durban side can still qualify or the knock-out phase as a wild card. The third ranked South African team on the combined log goes through, and the Sharks currently enjoy a three point lead on the Vodacom Bulls.
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