Western Force coach John Mitchell says he has put the “disappointment” of losing Springbok flyhalf André Pretorius behind him and is confident that he has enough options at his disposal to cover the No.10 channel.
The Force on Friday realised that they have bought the most expensive injury-prone flyhalf in the world, after it was confirmed that the Bok No.10, Pretorius, will miss the entire Super 14 season.
He had torn his hamstring in training, a situation not unfamiliar with his previous franchise – the Lions in Johannesburg – where he had not played a full season in the past five years, as a succession of injuries plagued his career.
But Mitchell was not going to dwell on Pretorius’ injury for too long, other than to express his disappointment at the marque signing’s absence.
Mitchell has revealed that Wallaby utility back, the 19-year-old James O’Connor, is one of his options at flyhalf. But the teenage sensation will compete for the No.10 jersey with at least three other players – including veteran Mark Bartholomeusz.
Bartholomeusz had a tremendous game for the Force in their 31-12 pre-season victory over the Reds on Friday – with his experience, composure and sure ball-handling standing out. His kicking out of hand was also terrific.
“We’ve had good versatility in our group and if you look at the mix there was André [Pretorius], who had the ability to play flyhalf, there was Sammy Harris, Mark Bartholomeusz, James O’Connor and also Stefano Hunt, so we have a number of permutations there within the group,” Mitchell said.
“We were really gutted for him,” Mitchell said of Pretorius’ injury.
“It’s really hard for a player to experience what he’s going through at the moment and he’s obviously taking it pretty hard, but we have to move on.
“The squad is 33 players plus him so we just have to get on with it. It’s unfortunate for him and us, and there will be more hurdles to come, but we just have one to get over right now.”
While the Wallaby sensation, O’Connor, is the fancied choice for some, Bartholomeusz looks more than capable of holding down the No.10 position for the Force and Mitchell is not only happy with the depth at flyhalf and inside centre, but also with the goal-kicking options he has.
O’Connor and Cameron Shepherd took on the duties well on Friday, but the Force have several options.
“Mark is super for the group. He’s a very experienced footballer, has a good head, brings composure to the group and we were really pleased with the first 30 minutes by the whole group. Mark’s contribution to that was great, but the whole team’s contribution was terrific in the first 30 minutes,” Mitchell said.
“He [O'Connor] is a very good goal-kicker and he’s also progressed from the Wallabies tour on that area where he spent a lot of time on it. We’ve also got Shep who has long distance, Sheeno is a good goal-kicker and there’s a couple of other boys improving in that area too so we are fortunate to have pretty close to five goal kickers within the club.”
Captain Nathan Sharpe is out on the field with the guys and sees them kicking often, and he had quite a unique way of summing up the goal kicking abilities of O’Connor and Shepherd.
“You can compare them if you look at golf and Shep’s is more of a one wood and James is more of a sand wedge, so it depends on how far out we are,” Sharpe said.
“James is very accurate and so is Shep as he’s getting his confidence back with his ankle. We are lucky to have both of those guys.”Tweet