Waratahs coach Chris Hickey says the Sharks’ attempt to parachute Brad Barritt into their side to play NSW shows a lack of faith in their centre options and could create disunity in the team.
A mischievous Hickey said Barritt’s call-up from Saracens in England for Saturday’s game risked provoking internal disharmony among players who had trained all year for the Sharks. The Sharks announced their 22-man squad late on Thursday, naming Barritt and Springbok Adi Jacobs as their No.12 and No.13 pairing for the round-13 game at ABSA Stadium.
Rupert Guinness writes that at the time, Barritt’s participation still hinged on approval from SANZAR, which has received an official request from the Sharks to allow Barritt to play. For Barritt to become re-registered as a Super 14 player, the Sharks had to show that Saracens had released him. The Sharks also have to show why they require an unregistered player for their squad.
SANZAR tournament director Johan Botes told the Herald that, “Saracens has signed him off,” but that SA Rugby had yet to approve his registration. Speculation that Barritt would play was raised when he arrived in Durban on Tuesday, the same day star centre Francois Steyn was ruled out for eight weeks with a knee injury.
Botes said on Thursday night that the Sharks had sent him a message that explained that “they have nine injuries in the backs alone, and that’s the reason why they wanted him [Barritt] to come back”.
Until then there had been no mention of injuries, other than those to Steyn, Jacobs, Waylon Murray and five-eighth Ruan Pienaar, who has recovered to take his place in the Sharks side to face NSW.
The Sharks’ other centres are Riaan Swanepoel, who has been named on the bench, and Andries Strauss, who has been omitted from the 22 after an underwhelming performance against the Highlanders last week. When asked about the sudden increase in injuries, Waratahs coach Hickey agreed that it was “curious” and could not help but suspect that other centre options had been overlooked.
Whatever the final SANZAR ruling, Hickey said: “I would find it very difficult bring a player in from overseas who hasn’t prepared and trained with the team when other players can fill those positions.
“It certainly would have the potential to create a fair bit of discontent within the group, and for players to feel like they really haven’t been treated fairly. It is something we wouldn’t necessarily look to do.”
Hickey also said there should be far less need to call in players for a position in the back line, where most players can cover, than in the tight five, where specialists are required.
“In some cases for front-row positions you can understand that potential injuries could impact, and you may have to bring someone in from outside the squad to cover the position like that,” Hickey said. “But in the backs it is a different scenario. They are all other players who can fill positions in the backs. It is a bit strange to drop someone in at the end, when others have prepared all season for this.”
The Waratahs are confident their injury woes are behind them, even if winger Rob Horne was unable to complete Thursday’s training session because of slight stiffness in his troublesome hamstring.
Waratahs captain Phil Waugh said everyone in the squad was fully aware of the must-win status of the game. A win for NSW, fifth on 32 points, could lift them above the Sharks, who are in fourth on 35.
“There is definitely a special edge to it. We realise we have to win it to stay alive,” Waugh said. “The good thing is that challenges don’t come much bigger than beating the Sharks at home. The teams that win now and win well are the teams that are going to be there at the end of the season.”Tweet