Whitehead set to miss crunch match
Sharks centre Tim Whitehead may have to wait until next year before feeling what it is like to play against his former Stormers teammates at Vodacom Super Rugby level.
Whitehead, recruited to the Sharks during the off-season after making his name with UCT, Western Province under-21 and the Stormers, was ruled out of the second match of the season against the Stormers back in early March due to injury. That was playing in all the pre-season games and the Super Rugby opener leading up to that point.
Now, after playing in almost every game since the Stormers squeaked to a narrow win in Cape Town, Whitehead is doubtful again. While coach John Plumtree says he will wait until later in the week before making a final decision, it seems unlikely that he will risk Whitehead, who looked to be playing with the affects of injury before being replaced by Meyer Bosman against the Cheetahs.
“Tim is struggling with his groin and was a bit quiet at the weekend. We’ll have to make a late call on him, but if he doesn’t make it we have full confidence in Meyer,” said Plumtree.
The coach will probably recall that it was Bosman who was responsible for some of the defensive lapses that enabled the Stormers to score four tries against the Sharks in the 2011 Newlands derby, with Jean de Villiers exploiting the weaknesses. However, Bosman made a slow start to last year after spending the off-season recuperating from injury, and he has looked sharper this season even though he hasn’t played in the starting team much.
“Meyer created the turn-over that led to our fourth try against the Cheetahs and he in fact also finished it off. I am pretty happy with the way he has gone this year. (His centre partner) Paul Jordaan has been playing well too, and made 20 tackles and was responsible for no misses against the Cheetahs. We’ve got speed all over the park now and that’s great.”
Although Frederic Michalak has been excellent in his absence, Patrick Lambie is expected to return at flyhalf for the visit by the Stormers. Lambie was named in the team for Bloemfontein but was withdrawn as a precaution due to the double impact of the concussion suffered against Western Force and a bout of influenza. He trained without any ill effects on Monday.
Also expected to be back in the Sharks backline is fullback Louis Ludik. The former Lions player was forced to miss the Cheetahs game because of an arm injury but has since recovered.
It will be interesting to see what Plumtree does with Willem Alberts after his impressive cameo as a replacement against the Cheetahs. The Springbok appeared to take the narrow window of opportunity offered him after a spell on the sidelines because he fell out of favour, but did not lack for motivation or hard graft when he came on.