Sharks' Lambie out for season
Cell C Sharks coach Jake White would have been feeling bad enough when he thought Patrick Lambie was going to be missing from action for six weeks. So the news on Monday evening that his ace flyhalf will miss the rest of the Vodacom Super Rugby season would have been like a dagger to the heart.
Instead of six weeks, Lambie has been ruled out for six months, which effectively means he will play no further part in the competition after tearing a bicep muscle early in the defeat to the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria last weekend. That effectively means that his dream combination in the key decision making axis of flyhalf/inside centre is no more, and young Fred Zeilinga will have to step up to the plate as a replacement.
With key line-out forward Pieter-Steph du Toit also out for the rest of the Super Rugby season, the Sharks have been quickly reminded that a short time can quickly start seeming like a long time in rugby. Just two weeks ago the Sharks had almost a full squad to choose from and looked like running away with the South African conference, but since then centre Paul Jordaan, Lambie, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and Du Toit have all been ruled out for various periods of time, which comes on top of the opening defeat of the season to the Bulls.
All four of those players were first choices in their position, which makes it doubly problematic for the Sharks and White. It is not as if White is drawing on a long list of players that includes second and third choices when pointing out who is injured.
Not that White appears to be wanting to focus much on the injured players, and quite rightly he has quickly made it clear to the Durban media that he wants to focus on what he has, rather than on what he hasn’t. While the Sharks back-up halfbacks struggled against the Bulls last week when introduced as a pairing during the game, White believes it will be different if they go into this Saturday’s clash with the Waratahs knowing they will be wearing the No 9 and No 10 respectively.
Tim Swiel, who ended up playing most of the game at Loftus, will make way for Zeilinga, but Charl MacLeod, who certainly doesn’t lack in either ability or experience, will continue where he left off in Pretoria.
“Losing your nine and 10 so early in a game does hurt – and this takes nothing away from the guys who came on and tried their best – but it’s not the same (as starting). We had spent two thirds of the week training with the one combination of Pat and Cobus and probably less than a third with Tim and Charl, purely because that is the nature of how you practise. So to lose both did not help.”
The Sharks go into their second bye after the Waratahs game so they will be going all out to score a win to give them comfort over a period that now looks likely to be spent figuring out ways of overcoming the blow of losing two such key players for the rest of the competition.