Lambie boost for Sharks and Boks
Johannesburg - The Cell C Sharks returned home from New Zealand at the weekend to the great news that their appointed captain and kingpin, Patrick Lambie, will be joining them in training this week and will be available to play in the crucial Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Hurricanes at Kings Park on Saturday.
According to SuperSport.com, that is positive news not just for the Sharks, but surely also for Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, who in his years coaching the Stormers and Western Province never made any secret of his high regard for Lambie when he was in the opposing team.
Lambie’s return is timely too, for Elton Jantjies, surely the only other choice at No 10 for the Boks in this season where Handre Pollard has been condemned to watching everything from the sidelines, was injured in the second half of the Emirates Lions’ disturbingly one-sided defeat to the Hurricanes in Johannesburg.
It is not known at this point how serious the injury is, but him leaving the field was a reminder of how fragile the pivot balance is. With the promising Jean Luc du Plessis of the Stormers still being too inexperienced to be considered for the Boks, and that inexperience showed at crucial stages of the Stormers defeat to the Waratahs, the flyhalf cupboard beneath Lambie and Jantjies is bare.
Lambie told the Durban media at the weekend that he wasn’t sure what role he will play against the Hurricanes but he is “fit and hungry to play just as soon as selected”.
With Garth April having done impressively in his two starts against the Highlanders and the Chiefs, there shouldn’t be a need to rush Lambie back into the starting team this week, so it is probable that he will play off the bench. There again, as Lambie himself admitted, the Sharks have reached a make or break point in their season, and the next fortnight could see them either back at the top of their conference or out of the race altogether.
They travel to Buenos Aires after the Hurricanes game and the Jaguares showed against the Southern Kings late on Saturday night that they will remain a tough proposition on their home ground. They have played just three home matches this season, and the two previous defeats were close ones against the Stormers and Chiefs.
The positive thing for the Sharks is that they are now just five points behind the Lions thanks to that team’s big defeat to the Hurricanes. That though should make it all the more frustrating that they weren’t able to nail down the win against the Chiefs, for they certainly had their opportunity in New Plymouth.
Keegan Daniel impressed both as a player and a captain and there shouldn’t be any need to change the leader regardless of Lambies’ status this weekend, or for that matter Beast Mtawarira’s return to availability after being rested last week, for a clash with a Hurricanes team that will be super confident after their performance at Emirates Airlines Park.
Of course the Sharks won’t need to be reminded either that there will be a lot on the game from a Hurricanes viewpoint, and not just because of what it will mean to their continued challenge on the New Zealand conference log. Both head coach Chris Boyd and assistant coach John Plumtree have been involved with the Sharks, and Plumtree should feel he owes one to the franchise/union that so unceremoniously axed him as coach a few years ago.
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