Alberts and Lambie out for Sharks
Springbok pair Willem Alberts and Patrick Lambie both failed late fitness tests on Wednesday and were left out of the Sharks team to play the Bulls in a crucial Super Rugby encounter in Durban on Friday.
However, there was a debut start for another Bok Frans Steyn after he was named in midfield.
Loose forward Alberts and utility back Lambie suffered injuries while on duty with South Africa against England last month — the former with a problem to his knee and the latter a twisted ankle.
It means that John Plumtree’s side sports five changes to the one that did duty in their last encounter before the June international break when they went down to the Lions in Johannesburg.
Louis Ludik takes over from Lambie at fullback, while Steyn, who moved back to the Sharks after spending two-and-a-half years at French club Racing Metro, partners Tim Whitehead in midfield.
JP Pietersen shifts to his more familiar wing position, with Odwa Ndungane and Meyer Bosman dropping to the bench.
Among the forwards, Ryan Kankowski fills in for Alberts and Pieter-Steph du Toit takes the place of Steven Sykes, another player who failed a late fitness test on Wednesday, alongside junior Springbok centre Paul Jordaan.
The hosts have to win the game at Kings Park if they are to maintain interest in the competition.
They currently lie eighth on the overall log on 49 points, five behind the fourth-placed Bulls (54) “It’s another crucial game for both sides,” said Plumtree.
“Both need the win, so it’s finals rugby all over again for us. Victory is key.”
The Sharks team is: Louis Ludik, JP Pietersen, Tim Whitehead, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Frederic Michalak, Charl McLeod, Ryan Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel (captain), Anton Bresler, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst, Jandre Marais, Jean Deysel, Cobus Reinach, Meyer Bosman, Odwa Ndungane.