Jake was tempted to start Pat
Durban - Cell C Sharks director of rugby Jake White has admitted that there was a big temptation to start against the Highlanders with Pat Lambie, but in the end decided against it for fear of disrupting what worked for his side against the Stormers last week.
According to the supersport.com website, speaking a few hours after announcing a match day squad that included Lambie on the bench as back-up to starting flyhalf Frans Steyn, White said he was hoping that the Springbok will get a chance to play in the second half of the Vodacom Super Rugby play-off and thus be ready to start a possible semifinal.
“There was a temptation to start with Pat as he is a really good players and he means a lot to us,” said White.
“But the backs were solid last week against the Stormers, and we are expecting the Highlanders to be quite physical. The Stormers ran hard at us last week, and I thought that defensively Frans and Paul Jordaan, standing at flyhalf and inside centre, were very sound. So we need consistency this weekend. Hopefully Pat will get game time and if we advance he will then be ready for the semifinals.”
White’s recent decision to move Steyn back to No 12 and accommodate Tim Swiel at flyhalf in the match against the Cheetahs was seen as an indication that the coach preferred not to have Steyn at pivot, but he clarified his thinking.
“I have read that Frans is reluctant to play flyhalf but he has never expressed any reluctance to me. He has told me he will play anywhere I want him to play and the Sharks need him to play,” said White.
“The reason I moved Frans to centre was because I was under the understanding that Pat was going to be available to play again quicker than it turned out. The medical staff advised me he would be back immediately after the international window, but he picked up a tennis elbow through a growth in scar tissue.
“That has been picked up now, and Lambie is now ready to play, but he hasn’t returned as quickly as I expected him to. We wanted to leave Frans in a settled position after the June window and that is why there has been a bit of juggling in selection.”
White is hoping that Springbok loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira will be ready to play in a semifinal should the Sharks get through the Highlanders game as victors.
“Beast is better but as we know with Beast when his mind is not completely right then it is perhaps better to wait. He has had a massive workload recently. He has a bulging disc in his neck that influences the strength in his arm, and obviously for a prop that is problematic. But hopefully he will be ready to play next week.”
White has full confidence in young Thomas du Toit, who will wear the No 1 jersey in Mtawarira’s absence against the Highlanders.
“I thought Thomas was outstanding last week. On the heavy Newlands ground it was a real scrum fest. He started out rusty but then got better as the game progressed. It wasn’t just his scrumming I was pleased with. He was also good with his tackling and his carrying for the ball and his pick and drive was outstanding. That is part of the blueprint I want this week against the Highlanders.”