If critics had to analyse the Sharks’ squad prior to Super Rugby kick-off, they would have pinpointed vulnerability in depth at 5, 9, 10 and 13, and after six rounds of the competition, this is precisely where the Sharks have been exposed by injury, and they are going to need new heroes if they are to continue their status as South Africa’s best title contenders.
Last week, the loss for the season of lock Pieter-Steph du Toit was catastrophic and now the predicted six-week removal of flyhalf Patrick Lambie (bicep injury) is potentially as calamitous.
Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach (fractured hand) is out for a similar period after he and Lambie were injured before seven minutes had been played in the match against the Bulls in Pretoria at the weekend.
While Tim Swiel played off the bench for Lambie at Loftus, it is certain that coach Jake White will call up specialist flyhalf Fred Zeilinga for Saturday’s home match against the Waratahs, and with Charl McLeod reclaiming the 9 shirt from the unfortunate Reinach – he was injured this time last year for two months with a serious ankle problem – and Stefan Ungerer will be called up from the Sharks XV.
The Sharks went down 23-19 to the Bulls but White refused to use the disruption of losing Lambie and Reinach as an excuse.
“It changed the game for us,” White admitted. “It made things a lot tougher but we should have been able to recover and we should rather point out that the Bulls were very good on the day. They took their chances, they defended the breakdowns very well, and made it hard for us in the set pieces. Victor Matfield showed his experience in how they disrupted some of our line-outs.
“I am proud of our guys. They showed some guts,” White said. “A lot of teams would have lain down and died after those early injuries. We spoke a lot about it at half-time and agreed to move on as a team. Yes, it was tough that we lost them because there were a number of new things we wanted to try that involved Patrick. Then you get a new guy in Tim, and he was understandably quiet. It was not his fault. The Bulls were putting pressure not only on him but the whole team. They are good at that at home when they are seriously motivated.”
It was in the third quarter that the Bulls came from behind to score two quick tries which changed the game, but White said the period after half-time was not where the game was won and lost.
“The Bulls were ‘up’ for it the whole game, not just the third quarter,” White stated. “We started off the game very positively, and before the injuries we were showing our intention to use the ball (with an attacking game). Then came the injuries and the Bulls started squeezing us. They were good in applying pressure the whole game, not just in the period when they scored their tries.” - The Star