Sharks' big guns back
THE Sharks have got two of their top Springboks back, but have put another on the bench.
Patrick Lambie and Willem Alberts, two of their most influential players, will return to the team for the Super 15 match against the Cheetahs at King's Parktomorrow.
But hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who has started in eight of the previous Sharks matches and played in all three tests against England, gets a breather on the bench.
The returns of Lambie and Alberts are considered a major boost for the Sharks in what is a crucial game for the team.
Alberts and Lambie had been carrying injuries suffered in the Springboks' test series against England last month, and have added quality and depth for the do-or-die clash.
Lambie slots into fullback, pushing Louis Ludik to the bench. Alberts will start from the bench.
Lock Jandre Marais replaces Pieter-Steph du Toit, who limped off the field in the win over the Bulls last week, and mobile loose forward Jacques Botes also returns from injury.
The Sharks are clinging on to the last play-off position, sixth, and a win against the plucky men from Bloemfontein would guarantee their progress into the knockout stage.
They put in their best performance of the season last week, beating the Bulls 32-10, despite the absence of Lambie and Alberts.
Sharks coach John Plumtree said pride was a huge factor in players' performances and that the departing Cheetahs players would be motivated to do well.
He warned his team not to underestimate their opponents.
Du Plessis is replaced in the starting line-up by Craig Burden, who had a few sterling appearances while the Bok hooker was out injured. Burden makes his first start since the beginning of April.
The Lions are still unsure of whether they will play in next year's Super 15.
"Nothing is set and the league ends this weekend," said Altmann Allers, equity holder in the Lions.
The Southern Kings have been guaranteed a place, but it has not yet been decided which of the current five South African Super 15 teams will make way for them.
The Lions are likely to lose out because they will finish last in the SA Conference.
A general council meeting of the SA Rugby Union to decide on the make-up of next year's South African Super rugby contingent has been postponed indefinitely.
The meeting was meant to take place today .
Farewell to the Lions - Page 23