Butch James says it won't be difficult for Pat Lambie to return to the Sharks' starting XV for their semi-final in Christchurch, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
After four months on the sidelines, Lambie is back in the mix. His cameo appearance towards the end of the Sharks' play-off win over the Highlanders on Saturday was enough evidence to suggest that he'll be considered for a starting berth against the Crusaders. More importantly for the Sharks, he managed to adapt to the pace of the match without worry.
Frans Steyn, the man who has plugged the gap in his absence, has proven a capable deputy but has shown his own limitations for the role, with his confrontational approach better suited to the inside centre channel. Speaking to SARugbymag.co.za ahead of the Sharks semi-final against the Crusaders, Sharks U19 assistant coach James says that whoever Jake White chooses is capable of getting the job done on Saturday.
'I think that you should always try get your best team out on the field,' said James. 'It's a tough one for the coach, he knows what's best for the team and how he wants to play it. They're both unbelievable players, capable of turning the game in their team's favour. It's going to be a difficult decision to make, but I'm sure it's a situation that Jake doesn't mind finding himself in.'
After Lambie injured his bicep in the loss to the Bulls in March, White tinkered with his line-up, experimenting with young Fred Zeilinga and Tim Swiel before settling on the tried-and-trusted Steyn.
It was Steyn who occupied the No 10 jersey during the Sharks' historic win in Christchurch earlier this season, but with Lambie back in the fold, White could take the opportunity to return Steyn to his favoured inside centre role. For Lambie, the cauldron in Christchurch would be a challenging return to starting action.
'I don't think it'll be too difficult for him to fit back in. He's got an old head on a young body. He's got some experience in these situations, especially in Currie Cups, where he's performed well and won big matches before.
'It will be interesting to see how Jake plays it because I'm not sure how Lwazi [Mvovo] is doing after he went off at the weekend. If he doesn't make it through the week, Pat will just slot in and everyone will just shift out one.'
The last time the two teams met in a play-off match was in 2011, where the Crusaders ran out comfortable 36-8 winners in Nelson. Lambie started at fullback that day while Dan Carter kicked 19 points for the hosts.
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