A bunch of injuries picked up in the 36-8 Vodacom Super 14 loss to the Sharks at the weekend has added to Cats coach Frans Ludeke’s mounting problems.
Not only have his Calamity Cats gone without a win in their last seven encounters, they look like facing the might of neighbours the Bulls at Loftus without several star players. With the season fast become the stuff of nightmares for Ludeke and co a trip across the Jukskei is a daunting task.
Another heavy defeat is on the cards – even against a Bulls team not firing nearly on all cylinders, although a return to Loftus may be just the tonic Heyneke Meyer and his team needs to revive their semi-final chances.
The most notable absentee is that of wing Ashwin Willemse who will miss the rest of the season after tearing posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee in a horrible tackle three minutes from time against the Sharks.
But Willemse is not the only injury worry for Ludeke ahead of the clash in Pretoria. Lock Gordon Gillfillan is out for at least six weeks, while hooker Lukas van Biljon will know his fate tomorrow, but the signs are not good.
“Ja, Ashwin is goners for at least six to nine months,” Ludeke told keo.co.za. “I really feel for him. He was looking so good in that game and for that to happen is so cruel. He will not play again this year.”
Willemse’s comeback is scheduled for the Super 14 next year. Ludeke also confirmed the latest on Gillfillan and van Biljon. “We will take a decision on Gordon on Tuesday. He is definitely out for six weeks, but if he needs an operation that could be pushed out to three months. And we will hear about Lukas’ ankle on Tuesday as well.”
With the Cats empire crashing down around him, the last thing Ludeke needed before the derby clash was a spate of injuries. “That is rugby,” he explained. “We have had our fair bit of injuries and just look what it did to Australia last year. We have not been able to get any momentum going.”
“Saturday is another crucial match for us.” Maybe going away from Ellis Park will help the beleagured Cats, but victory at Fortress Loftus – even against an out of sorts Bulls team – will require a Herculean effort.
By Andrew Hollely