They're getting closer
Veteran Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis could make a welcome return to the game when the Sharks head to Australasia later this month.
Sharks coach John Plumtree, speaking at a media briefing ahead of their Round Eight Super Rugby encounter with the Crusaders in Durban on Friday, revealed that Du Plessis has a good chance of departing with the squad for matches in New Zealand and Australia.
After Friday's encounter with the seven-time champion Crusaders, the Sharks travel to Cape Town for a re-match with the Stormers and then host the Cheetahs in Durban.
Their tour starts when they tackle the defending champion Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday, April 27, to be followed by encounters with the Highlanders (May 4), Reds (May 10) and Western Force (May 17).
"Bismarck du Plessis is on track," Plumtree told a media scrum in Durban, when asked about the World Cup-winning Bok's recovery from major knee surgery last year.
"I'm hoping he will make the tour," the coach said, adding: "If not, then hoping for the Australian leg.
"We're also hoping to have Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel back [from injury] in the next two weeks."
Another Bok veteran and 2007 World Cup winner who could be back for the tour is Andrew James, who also missed the start of the season following a surgical procedure to rectify a long-standing knee problem.
"[As for] Butch [James], we're hoping to have [back in time] for touring, within the next two to three weeks," Plumtree said.
"They're [all] getting closer, but it has been frustrating for all of us."
The down side to the injury is that Tim Whitehead's bone in his fractured arm hasn't knitted together and he is struggling to make the tour.
"He might make Australian leg," Plumtree said.
In another setback it was confirmed that Bok wing Lwazi Mvovo has suffered a thumb fracture and will be out of action for bout six weeks - meaning he will miss the tour.
Mvovo has had surgery to correct the problem.