Durban - While the Sharks scrum took a pounding from the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday, their players are also beginning to feel the hits and knocks with the injury list this week looking rather concerning.
Odwa Ndungane was ruled out for the rest of the season, and, at 35 years of age, one will wonder if Sharks fans will ever get to see the veteran in the black-and-white jersey again.
With captain Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel and Stephan Lewies ruled out of action on the eve of the Cheetahs clash, Sharks coach Robert du Preez had to make some late inclusions and replacements. He will need to call on most of his resources for this weekend’s clash against the lowly EP Kings at Kings Park where the Sharks are desperate to return to winning ways having lost opportunities against Western Province and the Cheetahs, slipping to second on the log.
Of those sidelined, Deysel looks the most promising, his hip strain having him scheduled to resume modified training this week with a fitness test ahead of the game on the horizon. For the rest, it looks dismal with the only positive being Pat Lambie beginning to pull through after his long concussion layoff.
In the past two weeks, Lambie has joined training and Du Preez had indicated he had come through well, taken some contact and could play soon. This week, Lambie will resume full training, being monitored by the medical staff to see how he bears up and pulls through. However, Sharks team doctor Alan Kourie has said this did not mean Lambie would automatically be available for selection this week and it remains to be seen whether he will be in Du Preez’s plans come the team announcement on Thursday.
Daniel’s abdominal strain, which failed a fitness test ahead of the Cheetahs clash, is still tender, meaning he is out of contention for selection this week, as is replacement captain Phillip van der Walt, the big No 8’s concussion keeping him a spectator for the next few weeks.
S’Bura Sithole’s groin strain also rules him out for this weekend and Lewies, who was originally named in the starting 15 for the Cheetahs, still has a hamstring strain, which sees him resume modified training with a slim chance of getting a start. He too, is subject to a fitness test.
Perhaps the biggest blow for the Sharks though is evergreen wing Ndungane, out for the rest of the season.
A torn peck muscle has put paid to his Currie Cup campaign and he is due for an operation tomorrow. Ndungane, who has been the subject of media reports paying homage to his longevity in the game, his faithful service to Sharks rugby and his experience in guiding the youngsters in the side, will be bitterly disappointed to have his season end like this and it remains to be seen whether he will be in around next year.
Cobus Reinach, Daniel du Preez and Tera Mtembu are recovering well, their injuries needing rest to ensure they are fit to start early next year, ahead of the Super Rugby campaign.