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Rugby | Currie Cup

Sharks searching for a hooker

The problem with success is that it can have its drawbacks, as the Sharks are discovering as they continue with the impressive momentum they built up towards the end of the Super Rugby season and carry it into the ABSA Currie Cup campaign.

The flourish at the finish to Super Rugby saw to it that no less than six Sharks took up position in the Springbok starting pack for the match against Argentina in Cape Town last Saturday. That is 75%, with the other two players, locks Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker, both coming from Western Province (the only Bulls representative, Pierre Spies, has been ruled out with injury).

Sadly for the Boks, and the Sharks, the early minutes of the opening Castle Rugby Championship match saw Bismarck du Plessis tear medial ligaments. He underwent an operation on Tuesday and will be out for at least eight months. That times his probable return to the playing field as the back end of next March or even early April, which already meant that the Sharks had something to think about when Du Plessis was injured.

But then came the double whammy – Craig Burden has been rewarded for his impressive start to the season by being flown to Argentina, where he will join WP’s Tiaan Liebenberg as back-up to Adriaan Strauss, who played really well when he came on for Du Plessis at Newlands.

Sharks coach John Plumtree told a press conference in Durban on Tuesday that he was pleased the Burden has been called up, but that it left a massive hole in his pack for the domestic campaign.

“We obviously congratulate Craig on making it into the Springbok squad and are really pleased for him, but the truth is it is a big setback for us as he was a pivotal player in our Currie Cup set-up and was responsible for providing the X-factor in the pack,” said Plumtree.

“This is what the Currie Cup is all about for teams like the Sharks. You get disruptions all the time. But I guess we must be doing something right if all our players keep getting called up to the Springboks.”

The Sharks now have seven forwards with the Boks, and Ryan Kankowski, who will return to Durban after a short stint in Japan, might well be part of the Bok mix when they head to Perth for the start of the Australasian leg of the Championship.

The Sharks’ problems at hooker are exacerbated by the injury that is keeping former under-21 star Kyle Cooper sidelined, and Monde Hadebe, who is a good young player, will start against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria at the weekend.

However it is when you get to back-up that there are problems for the Sharks, and Plumtree has said that he will look for options overseas in his quest to fill the void left by the injury to Du Plessis and subsequent loss of Burden.

The Sharks were hampered by injuries to four starting forwards at training on Thursday, but Plumtree expects Steven Sykes, Francois Kleinhans, Wiehahn Herbst and Jean Deysel to all be fit for the Loftus game.

The one big injury concern is in the midfield, where Springbok veteran Marius Joubert is set to replace Meyer Bosman, who has been struggling with strained knee ligaments and could be out for a while. The Sharks have a potential problem at centre as Tim Whitehead is also battling injury.


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