DURBAN – A ball has not been kicked in anger for nearly six months but the Sharks are already suffering a mini injury crisis as the countdown to rugby’s resumption begins in earnest.
The South African game reignites on Saturday in Pretoria when the Bulls host the Sharks, and the Lions tackle the Stormers in a double-header at Loftus Versfeld.
This follows the governmental green light for contact training to begin three weeks ago and in that period the Sharks have already picked up a host of injuries, the worst of which is a serious shoulder injury to star fullback Aphelele Fassi, who will be sidelined for up to three months.
Hooker Kerron van Vuuren was the first Shark to go down when he suffered a pectoral tear in training. He is recovering from surgery and should be back for the Sharks in the Currie Cup towards the end of October.
The injury to Fassi occurred in a freak accident in training late last week and he immediately had surgery on a serious shoulder injury.
The Sharks have further complications regarding their back three depth in that wings Madosh Tambwe (hamstring) and Sbu Nkosi (sternum) were also crocked in training last week and will miss this week’s trip to Loftus Versfeld.
Also, Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi leaves this week to join his Japanese club.
Coach Sean Everitt admitted the injuries have left the back three depth a bit thin.
“It is not ideal but the positive is that we can look at other players in those positions. Manie Libbok, Curwin Bosch and Boeta Chamberlain are versatile players (fullback/flyhalves) and we have Werner Kok who can play centre and wing, and (Junior Bok) Thaakir Abrahams is an exciting youngster (fullback/wing).”
Regarding Fassi, Everitt reckons the injury has not overly fazed the 22-year-old.
“Fassi is a young player with a very positive attitude – he is one of those guys who is never down,” Everitt said. “He was in great form in Super Rugby earlier this year and was on the brink of national selection, so obviously he is disappointed to get injured a week before we start playing again, but he will bounce back – he knows he has time on his side and this setback will give him an opportunity to reflect on the realities of rugby.
“From a Sharks team point of view, he is a big loss in that he brings a lot of energy to training and also to our games with his adventurous style of play, but injuries are part of rugby life and the show goes on.”
Everitt said the Sharks are taking an enlarged squad of 28 players to Pretoria and that he plans to field different sides in each of the halves.
“We are still in preparation for the Currie Cup start on October 10, so we obviously want to see where we are after the long break, and have as many players as possible get proper game time under their belts.”