More injury woes for fighting Sharks
Johannesburg - The Cell C Sharks quite literally limped back into Durban at the weekend after a Vodacom Super Rugby tour that appears to have left the players physically bruised and drained and in desperate need of the break that will come courtesy of the bye they enjoy after Friday’s match against the Rebels.
According to supersport.com, Marco Wentzel, the Sharks captain, summed it up when he was picked up on the television microphones telling the referee that he must allow the players time to get into position because they were “walking wounded” after a long tour.
After being on the wrong side of luck in their previous two tour games, the Sharks profited from it in the last game against the Reds in Brisbane, with scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer being presented with a gift when, in the process of limping and about to leave the field, the Reds’ James O’Connor shanked a kick into his body and Ungerer just had to fall over the line to complete the match clinching try.
But the Sharks’ chances of making that luck count and building the momentum that might see a modicum of pride restored with victories over the Rebels and Stormers in the last two games could hinge heavily on the injury report that is due to be released from the Kings Park headquarters on Monday.
Stefan Lewies, the lock who was out for most of the early part of the season and has made a difference since returning, will clearly be out of the remaining games because of a dislocated knee cap. Ungerer, who was one of the positive notes on the tour as he took his chance in the absence of Cobus Reinach, looked in some discomfort when he was removed from the field just after scoring his second try.
And Frans Steyn, so influential in the three games he played on tour, left the field in the second half against the Reds with what looked like a pectoral muscle injury. If he is unable to play in the remaining games he will be a big loss, for although Lionel Cronje joined Ungerer in being one of the finds of the tour, the calming influence of Patrick Lambie is apparently not expected back before the end of the Super Rugby season.
Reinach might be though, so that could be one snippet of good news later on Monday, and it will be interesting to see if outside centre Paul Jordaan, another player who was out for the early part of the season but started playing Vodacom Cup rugby recently, is back in the mix.
The Sharks are no longer in the Super Rugby race but director of rugby Gary Gold has emphasized the need to restore some pride. With refereeing blunders dominating the discourse after two of their games –against the Hurricanes and the Waratahs – the negativity that pervaded after the big opening tour defeat to the Highlanders was blunted to some extent, and there can be no denying that the Sharks did play with great commitment and tenacity in their last three games.
However, the defensive problems that blighted them all season have remained in evidence and they will be hoping they don’t have to make too many changes ahead of the game against a Rebels team that is adept at stretching and quickening up play.