As if a loss to the Cheetahs at Kings Park was not enough, the Sharks are now in a full blown injury crisis.
The Sharks lost the Beast Tendai Mtawarira early in the match while Lions recruit Andries Coetzee left the field in the second half. The Beast has been ruled out for up to a month and will subsequently miss the entire tour as a result.
This would not have bees as bad, since we have Junior Bok Allan Dell as backup to tour. Well, he went down against the EP Kings in the Vodacom Cup encounter and is expected to be out of action for two months, a MCL injury keeping him home.
Coetzee’s prognosis has not been confirmed, but the manner in which he left the field suggests either a dislocated shoulder or a collar bone injury. Either way, it is unsure whether he got on the plane with the team to travel to New Zealand. We await confirmation of this.
The Sharks are now in trouble both in the front row as well as in the back three. There simply is not another loose head available that is close to Super Rugby standard. Rumour has it that the Sharks approached the Lions to loan JC Janse van Rensburg, but he is currently in France ahead of his move there. Van Rensburg might join the Sharks ahead of the Highlanders match in week two of the tour, but nothing has been confirmed. At this stage, Wiehahn Herbst will start at loose head while Jannie du Plessis will take tighthead, but it is on the bench that a new face will have to flown in, whether it be Nicolaas van Dyk or a loan player.
As for the back three, Coetzee was a late change to the side which saw Sean Robinson dropped to the bench. Riaan Viljoen was impressive in his first start of the season, and is likely to keep his place in the run on team. The question remains whether we will see Frans Steyn return to fullback and see Viljoen on the wing, or whether Plumtree will go for Robinson and Odwa Ndungane on the wings. Another option would be to shift Frans Steyn into midfield and put Paul Jordaan on the wing, for which he has the required speed.
All in all, it should be an interesting week in terms of team selection and loan arrangements.
Further to the injury debacle, JP Pietersen’s agent has confirmed that the winger is in talks to join a Japanese club. Early reports suggest that it will be a similar deal as what we saw Ryan Kankowski enter where the player plays in Japan during the Currie Cup season and becomes available to the Super Rugby franchise at the start (or close enough) of the new season.
By Richard Ferguson