Another call for reinforcements

2013-05-06 00:00

ANOTHER week, another depressing defeat, another medical crisis and another call for reinforcements.

The dismayed Sharks, stunned and frustrated after losing 22-25 to the lowly Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday, have lost three more players to injury.

Springbok centre Frans Steyn has already undergone ankle surgery in a Dunedin hospital, hooker Craig Burden is on his way home with a neck injury and number eight Tera Mtembu could also be on his bike if his badly bruised shoulder does not respond to treatment this week.

Sharks manager Rudolf Straeuli, charged with the weekly task of patching up the injury-ravaged tour squad, has spent his last three Sundays in his King’s Park office.

He told The Witness yesterday that Burden, who suffered a compression of the vertebrae on the eve of the weekend game, was already travelling back to Durban and Sharks XV hooker Monde Hadebe was flying to Brisbane to replace him ahead of Saturday’s game against the Reds.

“Frans [Steyn] has had surgery on a haematoma on his ankle and will stay in hospital until Wednesday.

“The extent of the injury is still uncertain, but it is unlikely that he will be rejoining the tour.”

The news on Mtembu was more encouraging and the medical team on tour believe that he could be available this weekend.

While no replacement has been named for Steyn, there is the possibility that two Springboks, flank Willem Alberts and hooker Bismarck du Plessis, both returning from serious injury, could be sent over to Australia to complete the tour numbers.

“Our injury situation is dire,” said Plumtree. “Our backs are decimated, but we’ve just got to keep going. We’ve got to get some fit guys organised in time and just get on with it.”

While there was anger in the Sharks camp at the inconsistent way New Zealand referee Steve Walsh policed the breakdown, Plumtree preferred to praise the Highlanders’ defence.

“You have to give credit to the Highlanders for the way they defended. They were desperate for a result after eight losses and it showed in their defence.”

Plumtree praised the commitment of his players.

“You can’t doubt the boys’ effort, but the changing room is a mess.”

He said he agreed with captain Keegan Daniel’s decision to turn down an easy three points for a draw (with the many late penalties) in the closing moments in the hope of securing victory.

“The boys wanted to get five points [for a win and a bonus point for four tries]. Time was up on the clock and we wouldn’t have had time to get back down into their territory and win the game,” Plumtree said.

“It’s disappointing. We looked good when we had the ball and kept it, but we had too many little opportunities that we didn’t nail.”

Relieved Highlanders’ coach Jamie Joseph said a draw would have been a “fair result between two desperate teams”.

Prominent for the Sharks on the day were wing Lwazi Mvovo, centre Meyer Bosman, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and hooker Kyle Cooper, but the Sharks paid a heavy price for their limp 15 minutes early in the second half when the Highlanders scored 18 unanswered points.

Captain Daniel, chuffed with the four tries scored against the Chiefs the previous weekend, said the Sharks would turn the corner against the Highlanders.

They did … and drove straight into the Highlanders’ brick wall.

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