JOHANNESBURG - Cyle Brink must be wondering what he did to upset the rugby gods. The Lions flanker’s 2018 season is done and dusted, his chance at becoming a Springbok gone. A knee injury picked up at training with the Springbok squad in Durban last week means he won’t play again until next year’s Super Rugby competition.
The setback is the latest in what has been a tough year for the 24-year-old. Brink played some of the best rugby of his career for the Lions this season and was in line to make his Test debut in the coming days, or weeks, having first missed out in June on that opportunity – injury again costing him a Springbok debut.
On that occasion it was a nerve problem in his shoulder and neck that forced him to the sidelines and he only returned to action in the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition. While he featured in the quarter-final win against the Jaguares, the same nerve issue, or “stinger”, to his right arm forced him to miss the semi-final against the Waratahs.
He returned to play in the final nearly three weeks ago and while the Lions didn’t enjoy the fairytale finish in Christchurch, Brink got through the game unscathed and showed he was over the problems that had beset him earlier.
Bok boss Rassie Erasmus was then finally able to include him in his Rugby Championship squad, only for Brink to break down in training last week. The former SA Under-20 star, who is highly rated by Erasmus, underwent surgery on his knee on Friday last week and is now recovering at home.
“It was a bit of a freak accident really,” said Lions doctor Rob Collins on Wednesday. “Someone fell on him during training and he tore his right patella tendon, that’s just below the knee cap. He’ll be out for six months, but has taken a positive view on the matter. He can now rest and sort everything out, including the nerve in his shoulder, before coming back next season.”
Brink is not the only Lions player who won’t be in action again in 2018. Prop Dylan Smith, who has struggled with a shoulder problem in the past, is now nursing a similar problem in his other shoulder and will also only return for Super Rugby next year, while hooker Robbie Coetzee is on his way back from a nine-month layoff after injuring his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his knee. Scrumhalf Nic Groom meanwhile will be out of action until October, while he recovers from a broken hand.