Springbok wing Ashwin Willemse is in another race against time to be fit to make Jake White’s World Cup squad for France. He looks unlikely to play any more rugby in 2006.
Arguably the unluckiest rugby player in the country, Willemse tore posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee near the end of the defeat to the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The result of a scan revealed the seriousness of the latest injury and Willemse will be out of action again for between six and 12 months.
It is likely he will have to undergo another operation to repair the damage. Willemse missed most of the 2005 season after having surgery on his ankle. He returned to the Cats squad earlier this year, but missed out on the overseas tour with a hamstring injury.
Saturday’s match was his first Super Rugby game in more than a year. The wisdom of leaving Willemse on the field for the full 80 minutes will surely be questioned. He sustained the injury in the 77th minute of a match that was already well and truly lost. And for those 77 minutes, the former SA rugby Player of the Year had looked a class above the rest on the field.
Willemse had played for the Young Lions in a Vodacom Cup match the previous weekend, but asking the player to last 80 minutes in his comeback match at Super 14 level was too much. He should have played no more than 50 or 60 minutes. Now his entire rugby career hangs in the balance again.
By Andrew Hollely