The Cell C Sharks have been boosted by the return of Springboks Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen from Japan, as well as flank Willem Alberts from a hamstring injury.
Both Japanese-based backs were spotted training with the Sharks on Monday after their respective teams were eliminated from the league in Japan.
Meanwhile, barn-storming loose forward Alberts has been training with the squad for sometime now and is finally in contention for selection as the Sharks prepare to travel to Cape Town to take on the undefeated Stormers.
For Waylon Murray, a player who may face the axe should Sharks coach Gary Gold feel the need to push Pietersen into the No 13 jersey, it was still a welcome sight to have the 2 returnees in the squad.
“Obviously it is great news that they are back, JP and Frans are world class players,” the centre told the media on Tuesday.
“It just adds great strength to our squad going forward.”
A question that often arises with players returning from Japan is whether they can keep up with the intensity of Super Rugby but Murray feels that both players have shown a great attitude in training this week.
“The attitude of those 2, and the rest of the players this week, has been exceptional,” Murray added.
“Everyone has been working hard to fix the wrongs that came up against the Bulls.”
From the coaches side, defence and kicking boss Michael Horak was pleased with the form and fitness levels shown by the two returning Japanese-based Springboks, describing them as “both looking in fantastic physical condition.”
He also confirmed that Tendai Mtawariria’s rehab was coming along nicely.
“I think we’re in a fortunate situation,” Horak said of the squad depth and players returning to active duty.
“The conditioning and rehab staff have done a fantastic job so we should be able to select a strong line-up for this weekend.”
The return of Alberts is another big plus for the Sharks as fellow loose forward Lubabalo Mtembu explains: “I think he is raring to go and ready to smash a few guys!”
“It is great to have a guy like Willem back; Renaldo Bothma has done great for us and he has had an brilliant start but then to have a guy like Willem filling in for us is awesome.”
Alberts, Steyn and Pietersen’s return will be one headache coach Gold will not mind dealing with as he decides on his strongest team to take on the high-flying Stormers.
“There is tough competition in the loose trio,” Mtembu added.
“Every guy that has stepped in has done well, which is a good headache for the coaches to have.
“We have a quality squad, especially with our loose forwards, and everyone who comes in does well.
“If I get an opportunity this weekend I will look to take it with 2 hands.”
Another loose forward, Ryan Kankowski, who replaced Mtembu in the No 8 role against the Bulls on a rotation policy, reiterated his teammates sentiment.
“Competition is always a good thing,” Kankowski said on his return from Japan.
“We have Renaldo and Marcel playing brilliantly at the moment, we have Tera, Jean and Willem as well as Khaya Majola and a couple youngsters that are still coming through – there is even the Du Preez brothers (Jean-Luc and Daniel).
“There are plenty brilliant players in the squad and that raises everyone’s game.
“If you have 1 bad game the next guy is in, it is something that everyone knows and it makes them want to get better and better.”
One unfortunate blow for the Sharks was the loss of Jean Deysel. It was confirmed that he would be out of action for 4 to 5 weeks after having a small procedure done on his ankle.