All eyes on Lambie
The Currie Cup final in Durban Saturday offers Patrick Lambie a timely chance to prove he should be the Springbok fly-half when they play Ireland, Scotland and England next month.
Lambie lines up with the favoured Sharks against visiting Western Province at Kings Park in a climax to the South African domestic season that will feature more than a dozen national players.
With recently promoted Johan Goosen out of the Tests in Dublin, Edinburgh and London due to injury, many believe Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will recall Morne Steyn as playmaker.
But Lambie outplayed Steyn when the Sharks defeated the Blue Bulls 20-3 in a Currie Cup semi-final last weekend and large sections of the public and media believe he deserves a chance to wear the number 10 green and gold shirt.
Meyer begs to differ, saying Lambie needs to improve his tactical kicking, and consistently picks him only as the replacement full-back behind Zane Kirchner.
The coach does sometimes change his mind, though, replacing Steyn after his place-kicking success rate dipped to 25 percent and picking back-row 'fetcher' Francois Louw after claiming a few months before that the role was extinct.
Lambie is similar to Goosen in that he loves to attack the advantage line and mix kicking, running and passing whereas Steyn favours lying deep and relying too heavily on often misdirected tactical kicks.
Steyn and Lambie are almost certain to be named in a 32-man touring squad due for release Sunday, but there is a strong belief that Meyer will opt for Steyn as his first choice pivot.
The baby-faced Sharks fly-half has fond memories of playing Province in a Currie Cup final, scoring 25 points in a 30-10 final victory at Kings Park two years ago that was ever bit as decisive as the scoreline suggests.
The Sharks are favourites because they have been the outstanding South African province this season, reaching the Super Rugby final before losing to Waikato Chiefs in New Zealand and topping the Currie Cup league table.
Finishing first with seven victories from 10 matches - including home and away successes against Province - earned them the right to home advantage for the semi-final and the final.
The Kings Park setting could prove crucial as Province are prone to struggle on the road, with a dramatic 21-16 semi-final triumph over defending champions Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend a notable exception.
A try from Springbok number eight Duane Vermeulen with eight seconds left snatched victory for Province after the Cape Town side used a rolling maul to devastating effect.
Sharks have made four changes to the team that started against the Bulls with two Springbok forwards, prop Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira and loose-forward ball carrier Willem Alberts, among those elevated.
The lone change in the Province starting line-up sees Damian de Allende, who usually operates on the left wing, chosen at inside centre ahead of Marcel Brache in a side skippered by flank Deon Fourie.