Injured Bok creates midfield crisis
Tue, 21 May 2013 15:43
Trio back in training with Sharks
Sharks coach John Plumtree has to deal with a midfield crisis as he prepares his team for the arrival of the Bulls on Saturday.
The South African conference leaders, on a five-match winning streak, have not lost on SA soil this year and are fancied to claim one of the prime positions in Super Rugby's July play-offs.
However, Plumtree has to deal with the news that seasoned Springbok JP Pietersen will require surgery, after sustaining a groin injury against the Western Force last week.
Pietersen, who was moved to centre in the wake of a series of crippling midfield injuries, looks set to be ruled out for the rest of the season - including the June internationals and most likely also the start of Rugby Championships in August.
His injury comes in the wake of setbacks that ruled out talented young stars Tim Whitehead (fractured arm) and Paul Jordaan (knee), as well as Springbok Frans Steyn (lower leg) who saw his season come to a premature end in the loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Although the Sharks were still awaiting the results of further medical assessments on Pietersen, Plumtree has resigned himself to the fact that he will be field yet another new midfield combination against the powerful Bulls outfit.
It was also confirmed that veteran Bok Marius Joubert, who fractured his hand in a Vodacom Cup semifinal loss to the Lions, will not be available this week.
The good news is that fellow Bok Meyer Bosman, who fractured his nose in the win over the Force last week, trained with the team on Tuesday and will be available to face the men from Pretoria.
However, the outside centre position is a major poser.
Piet Lindeque, unwanted in Durban till the injuries started and now on loan from Varsity Cup champions Pretoria University, may well start in his preferred position of centre - after playing out on the wing since he joined the Sharks on tour.
The real good news for the Sharks is that Bok stalwarts Bismarck du Plessis (knee), Tendai Mtawarira (calf) and Andrew James (knee) all trained with the team on Tuesday and can be considered for selection.
James can play at inside centre, but having not seen any action for almost a year, the same length of time that Du Plessis has been absent, means it will be a huge risk to rush him back into the starting XV.
Du Plessis looked in great nick at training and could also feature, although he will run the same risk as James if he is rushed into the starting XV without any game time under his belt.
However, given the Sharks' dire situation - sitting in 11th on the standings with six wins from 12 starts - they may well risk the two Bok veterans, even off the bench.
Mtawarira is much less of a risk, as he has been sidelined for just over a month.
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