DURBAN – The good news for the Sharks is that Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira will be back for Saturday’s almighty Super Rugby derby with the Stormers in Cape Town, but the bad news is that a slew of players are either new to the injury list or remain on it.
For instance, there will be no Curwin Bosch for the knock-out game with the Capetonians, nor rugged lock Ruan Botha.
Indeed, much has been made of the Stormers’ crippling casualty count, but the Sharks are suddenly not far off them in terms of injuries to key players.
They could certainly have done with Bosch’s game management and attacking prowess at Newlands, but the 21-year-old rolled an ankle in the second half of last week’s match against the Jaguares.
On his return to Durban, he went for scans to determine the extent of the damage.
Team doctor Gerhard Coetzer said on Wednesday that while the extent of Bosch’s injury has not yet been determined, he will not be available for selection this week.
Bosch’s injury means coach Robert du Preez is spared a prickly selection problem at flyhalf after his son Rob du Preez started in the position in Buenos Aries and did not play well.
Du Preez continued at 10 at Wednesday’s training session, with Aphelele Fassi back at fullback for Bosch.
The rest of the backline was unchanged, apart from the appearance of Rhyno Smith on the right wing for Sbu Nkosi, who missed the session because of illness.
The back-up scrumhalf to Louis Schreuder was fit-again Cameron Wright, who along with Mtawarira, was on the positive side of the doctor’s injury report.
The Springbok front-rower was back at loosehead prop, with Coenie Oosthuizen on the tighthead and Kerron van Vuuren once more the starting hooker.
The latter has had to carry a heavy workload this season after having started the year on the outer, only to be thrown in the deep end because of the hooker woes that quickly beset the Sharks.
That included the doping allegations against Chiliboy Ralepelle and the injury and suspension problems of Akker van der Merwe.
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The latter is still injured, and the player recruited to cover for him back in March, Craig Burden, has once more had miserable luck on the injury front.
The 34-year-old strained a hamstring in his comeback match for the Sharks last week after having been sidelined with a shoulder injury and then a torn bicep, both sustained in training with the Sharks since he rejoined them.
With Burden out this week, Cullen Collopy ran as the substitute hooker on Wednesday.
The two big blows from the trip to Argentina are the injuries to two of the Sharks’ most menacing forwards, Jean-Luc du Preez and Botha.
Towering lock Botha is battling with a nerve impingement on his foot and will be out for a few weeks, while flank Jean-Luc du Preez picked up an MCL injury to his left knee in training last week in Buenos Aires, and will be out for a further week.