Ndungane expected to return for Sharks against confident Leopards

2010-08-10 00:00

FORMER Springbok wing Odwa Ndungane is expected to return to action for the Sharks in Friday night’s Currie Cup match against the Leopards in Phokeng.

Ndungane has been hampered by injury this year, suffering a pulled hamstring during the Super 14 and then damaging ribs in scoring a try for the Springboks against Wales in Cardiff in June.

He has been back at training with his Sharks team-mates, and coach John Plumtree said he hopes the wing will be ready to replace JP Pietersen against the Leopards.

Pietersen, who has overcome his injury problems, has been recalled to the Springbok squad and will join his fellow Sharks, props Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis, hooker and captain John Smit, and number eight Ryan Kankowski, at the training camp in Johannesburg this week.

Two Springboks who have spent the last couple of months on the sidelines because of serious injury, Sharks hooker Bismarck du Plessis and Free State flank Heinrich Brüssow, have been invited to the camp as additional players. Brüssow is only likely to be fit again at the end of the Currie Cup, but Bismarck, after neck surgery, played off the bench for the Sharks against the Lions in the final quarter on Saturday and was quick to involve himself physically.

Bismarck is expected to be released by the Springboks for Friday night’s Currie Cup game as coach Peter de Villiers already has two hookers (Smit and Chiliboy Ralepelle) in the squad.

Sharks number eight Kankowski, who was a late withdrawal from the Lions game because of a calf strain, could also return to Currie Cup action when De Villiers reduces his Tri-Nations squad from 29 to 24 on Friday. Plumtree said Kankowski will probably be sidelined by his injury for another week.

The Sharks head coach said he has adequate cover for the four players called to the Bok training camp and for injured loose forward Jean Deysel.

Props Wiehahn Herbst, Pat Cilliers and Eugene van Staden provide front-row back-up for Jannie du Plessis. Meanwhile, Mtawarira, Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and Willem Alberts will continue as a potent loose trio in the absence of Deysel and Kankowski, and Ndungane should be ready to take over from Pietersen.

The Leopards, with their confidence high after their weekend heroics at Loftus, will take on the Sharks at 7.10 pm on Friday. The Leopards are at the foot of the Currie Cup log, but they came tantalisingly close to upsetting Currie Cup champions the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Friday night. The Leopards went down by five points (43-38) as the home team were forced to hang on desperately in the final minutes.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of only two scrumhalves (Francois Hougaard and Ricky Januarie) in the 29-man Bok training squad suggests that De Villiers will field his third No. 9 in three Tests against the All Blacks in Soweto. Januarie was replaced by Ruan Pienaar against the Wallabies, but the injury to the Sharks scrumhalf could now result in the feisty Hougaard starting against the New Zealanders on August 21.

The overseas-based fullback Frans Steyn, surprisingly recalled to the Bok squad, is having a scan on an injury in Paris today. He was injured in a club pre-season friendly on Friday and, even if passed fit, it seems unlikely that he will be rushed into a Test match after a two-month break from the game.

The return of JP Pietersen to full fitness could see him selected on the wing with Gio Aplon moved to fullback to replace the steady if unspectacular Zane Kirchner.

The Boks will face Australia in their last two Tri-Nations Tests in Pretoria (August 28) and Bloemfontein (September 4).

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