This injury thing with the Sharks is getting beyond a joke. On Monday, the first practice of the tour produced two more casualties, just as the farewell training in Durban had two players - Philip Smit and Justin Swart - crocking themselves.

First Trevor Halstead limped off the field with a hamstring problem and then Shaun Sowerby could not complete the session because of a groin injury. It would seem Halstead has not fully recovered from the injury that forced him to withdraw from the Cats game. Coach Kevin Putt will be gravely concerned because he now has just eight fit backs.

Seven of them will have to start the match against the Chiefs on Saturday, rookie scrumhalf Josh Fowles will be on the bench and Halstead was due to be the second backline substitute, with five forwards making up the balance of the bench. "Trevor stopped training as a precaution," said Putt.

"The same goes for Shaun. He will play. You can bet on it," Putt said emphatically.

Sowerby was superb against the Cats and is maturing nicely into the captaincy. It would be a disaster if this niggle blows up into an injury serious enough to cut short his tour.

The Halstead situation does not look good. A flare-up of a hammy injury that kept him out of a match is unlikely to fully sort itself out in five days.

But who can Putt phone? He has no fit backs waiting at home and the SA draft seems to be exhausted of quality backs. There has been talk of calling up Conrad Jantjes, but the former Springbok fullback played his first match in almost a year last week.

Of the 23 players on tour, Lukas van Biljon is only available for selection next week, Halstead is dodgy and Sowerby is sore. Putt will have to get by this week with what he has got, but he surely is going to have to send for the cavalry before next week's big match against the Crusaders.

Injury concerns aside, the Sharks are in great shape. They trained with tremendous vigour at the Whangamata Rugby Club ground and were cheered on by a good turnout of locals. Given the shrinking size of the Sharks squad, it was not difficult to work out the line-up that will play against the Chiefs.

Even if Halstead was fit, Putt was due to retain Rudi Keil at inside centre and Etienne Fynn will start again ahead of Deon Carstens. In another area of hot competition, Roland Bernard will continue at openside flank despite Luke Watson's recovery from injury.

Putt said that Bernard deserved to be rewarded for his excellent efforts at Ellis Park and, at the same time, Watson is still a little tender. He was not available for the Cats game because of a bruised hip.

Meanwhile, Sapa reported that Swart had recovered from injury and left South Africa last night to join up with the Sharks in New Zealand ahead of their Vodacom Super 12 campaign.

Lock Albert van den Berg could also be winging his way to New Zealand later in the week once he has completed a vigorous fitness programme.

Prop Ollie Le Roux and John Smit, the other Sharks players who were not in the initial tour squad because of injury problems, are still possibles for the trip to Australia, but lock Philip Smit has been ruled out altogether.