Sharks lock cleared to tour

2012-03-20 00:00

SPRINGBOK lock Steve Sykes, who was stretchered from the field on Saturday evening, has been cleared to join his Sharks team-mates on their four-match tour of the Antipodes.

Sykes was injured shortly before half-time of the Reds’ game and it was initially thought that he would miss the tour and undergo surgery.

But Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said yesterday that Sykes had been medically cleared by a specialist.

“He’s ready to play and he’s on his way to Australia,” said Van Zyl. “It was a recurrence of an old knee injury, but he has recovered quickly.”

The news will provide a further boost for the Sharks who left for Sydney on Sunday night with their heads high after their unlikely win over the title-holding Reds.

The Sharks have been hit hard by injuries to their tight five, with lock Ross Skeate last week joining Alistair Hargreaves on the sidelines.

Jandre Marais proved a most capable second-row replacement on Saturday and Sharks coach John Plumtree could start with him and Anton Bresler against the Waratahs on Saturday, with Sykes playing off the bench.

Plumtree is also desperately short of props. He has travelled with only three, two of whom, Jannie du Plessis and Wiehahn Herbst, left the field on Saturday with injuries.

Du Plessis (calf strain) is expected to be fit for the Waratahs game, joining Dale Chadwick in the front row, but unless another prop is flown to Sydney this week, Herbst will have to play off the bench with a sore knee.

The 24-man tour party, following the injuries, certanly lacks balance with 12 backs and 12 forwards. There are six who play at centre (Meyer Bosman, Tim Whitehead, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Marius Joubert and Pat Lambie) but there are only four loose forwards, three locks and three front-rowers in the 24-man squad.

Plumtree, in spite of the injury concerns, remained upbeat following the weekend win.

“It’s always exciting going away with this team and touring early in the competition, which is great,” he said prior to departure.

“We spend two weeks in Sydney, playing the Waratahs, and then making a weekend trip to play the Brumbies in Canberra. We will then do a fair amount of travelling to play the Hurricanes and the Blues in New Zealand and that’s great because it will keep the players busy.”

Plumtree said the Sharks had a reputation for touring well.

“It’s going to be a tough tour but it always is. The players are close and there’s a great team spirit in the camp.”

The Waratahs, with one win from four games, are struggling and went down 20-21 to the Force at home on Saturday. The Sharks, however, have seldom been at their best in Sydney and the long trip will also be a factor.

“We’ll have to pick up the pieces after the Reds game and see where we stand. We’ll lighten up this week, get the boys over the jetlag and have a few good organisation sessions later in the week and then rip into it. The Waratahs will be hurting a bit after losing to the Western Force. Their confidence levels will be down a bit.

“Hopefully, the win over the Reds, and the way it was achieved, will give our players belief. There will be tough situations on tour and they will be able to draw from that,” said Plumtree.

The match kicks off early on Saturday (6.35 am SA time).

 

Sharks tour squad (24): Backs (12): Riaan Viljoen, Louis Ludik, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Tim Whitehead, JP Pietersen, Meyer Bosman, Marius Joubert, Paul Jordaan, Pat Lambie, Frederic Michalak, Charl McLeod.

Forwards (12): Keegan Daniel (c), Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Jacqus Botes, Steven Sykes, Anton Bresler, Jandre Marais, Dale Chadwick, Wiehahn Herbst, Jannie du Plessis, Bismark du Plessis and Craig Burden.

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