It won’t be long before the horrific injury toll in Sharks land starts to ease up. Perhaps then, we’ll start to see some of the rugby that we love.
The match against the Bulls surely has to be an all-time low-point in terms of the team’s performances this season. Given that we had around 15 first choice players unavailable (with a few pulling out on the eve of the match) , it’s probably understandable that the team lacked rhythm and cohesion. I’ve had my rant about that, so perhaps now it’s time to apply the benefit of the doubt and start looking to the future.
We have the best props (and the best scrum) in the tournament this year. Pat Cilliers will be back in another few weeks to further bolster a front-row division that already contains Boks BJ Botha, Deon Carstens and Jannie du Plessis. With Robbie Harris a useful stand-in when required, along with a few youngsters around, the Sharks have no issues whatsoever in that area. Craig Burden’s value was emphasised in his absence against the Bulls. Lineout woes seem to be affecting everyone this season, with the new laws, so Burden just needs to keep on doing what he’s been doing.
Steven Sykes should be back this week (and back at lock) and can renew his partnership with Johann Muller. The two Als are around to share the impact lock role, bit we need Steven and Johann to get back to the high-paced-grunt type of game that they played so well in the Super 14. Joe Snyman is another who will hopefully make his presence felt once he returns from a stint with Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand.
Nik Strauss looks like a reasonable stopgap until Jean Deysel returns; hopefully the latter will be ready to play in another 2-3 weeks. Loose forward is an area where we are crucially short, but we’re just going to have to hang in there until Deysel gets back. Hopefully a youngster like Justin Downey can still make his mark this year and Nik Blignaut surely must still ahve a role to play.
Rory Kockott and Brad Barritt are back in training and should resume their halfback combination for the next two weeks, after which Fred Michalak should be ready to take over at flyhalf. Barritt can then move back to centre and hopefully be just the tonic that Waylon Murray needs to find his old fizz. If not, Riaan Swanepoel is looking exciting and we still have the young Luzuko Vulindlu (and the not so young Dumi Matyeshana) keen to make their mark. Henno Mentz looks like he needs to be put out to pasture (if not taken out and shot) but in Chris Jordaan and Lwazi Mvovo we have a pair of young wingers who are full of pace and hungry for work. Stef Terblanche is a tyro on defence and will look to improve the attacking aspects of his game as he becomes more familiar with te wings playing with him.
Surely we can expect to get at least a few of our backline stars back when the Boks arrive back in 3 weeks as well? It’s hard to imagine that all of Jacobs, Pienaar, Steyn, Ndungane and Pietersen will be included in the Bok squad for the home leg of the Tri-Nations.
For the Sharks, the next few weeks will be about doing as good a holding job as we can while we wait for our stars to come back into contention.
* With Deon Carstens and Nic Strauss nursing slight injuries, it’s possible that neither will be available for selection against the Valke this weekend. We’ll keep you posted.Tweet