Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold is confident that Garth April will successfully step in once again to replace injured Pat Lambie at flyhalf, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
When Lambie suffered a serious shoulder injury in a pre-season warm-up game, Gold initially backed Joe Pietersen to start at No 10 during the opening rounds of Super Rugby, while opting to gradually integrate April.
Yet when April finally received his opportunity to start on the Sharks’ tour to New Zealand, he emphatically made the most of it, particularly impressing against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Despite starting in just three games, April did enough to catch the eye of Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, who had no hesitation in including the 24-year-old in his first Bok squad, although it was primarily to learn from those around him in the national set-up.
With Super Rugby now resuming after the June international break, April will have an opportunity to start his first game since last playing for the SA A side against the England Saxons on 10 June.
Gold said he had no doubt April would be able to seamlessly swing back into action against the Lions on Saturday.
‘We’ve spent most of the season without Pat, so it’s an adaption I think we can deal with, although obviously it's never ideal to lose a player like Pat. Our continuity has been broken up a bit, but it’s no excuse, it’s another exciting opportunity for Garth to step in again, which he did really well in New Zealand. So we’re excited about that.’
Gold said he felt it had been a beneficial experience for April to spend time with the Boks despite the fact he only featured in a solitary game for the SA A side.
‘Like Allister explained, it was a situation where he just wanted Garth to experience the Springbok culture and I think it’s wonderful that he got that recognition. Although he didn’t have a huge amount of game time [in Super Rugby] before being selected by the Boks, Allister still recognised his potential.’
It was a sentiment echoed by veteran scrumhalf Michael Claassens, who said it had been great to see the transformation that April had undergone in a short space of time.
‘His confidence has grown, and I’ve really seen an improvement with his kicking, the way he runs the game and his communication. This weekend he’ll have an opportunity to now go up against Elton [Jantjies], who is the Bok No 10, and test himself there. So that will be good to see.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images