Smit out with neck injury

2009-10-02 00:00

A WORRYING neck injury has sidelined Springbok captain and tighthead prop John Smit and he will miss the Sharks’ next two Currie Cup games.

Smit was initially included in the squad named yesterday to face the Lions in the Currie Cup game at King’s Park tomorrow evening, but hours later he was withdrawn from the match 22.

Head coach John Plumtree, in announcing a team crowded with returning Springboks, told The Witness that Smit would not be one of them.

“John is not happy with a neck injury. It is difficult with an injury of this nature to tell just how bad it is but we are hoping it will settle down with a bit of rest and that he will be ready for the Currie Cup semi-finals,” said Plumtree.

The Sharks, already assured of a semi-final place, meet Griquas in their final round robin game next weekend before the semi-finals on October 17.

The South African captain, in a new role of tighthead prop, has battled through a long and physically demanding international and Super 14 campaign and obviously a neck injury at this stage of the season is not only a major concern for the Sharks, but also for the Springboks who tour Europe next month.

The Sharks do have depth at prop and Plumtree is still able to field an all-Bok front-row with the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, joining Beast Mtawarira in the front-row.

Plumtree has made six changes to the team, which blew hot and then cold in beating the Leopards last Friday. Springbok wings JP Pietersen, after a month-long lay-off with a pulled hamstring, and Odwa Ndugane return for Luzuko Vulindlu and Lwazi Mvovoto.

The four changes at forward see Mtawarira take over from Pat Cilliers and Bismarck du Plessis return for hooker Skipper Badenhorst, lock Steven Sykes replace Alistair Hargreaves and flank Keegan Daniel gain selection ahead of Michael Roberts.

The Sharks are missing their bruising flank Jean Deysel and he was replaced by the powerful Roberts against the Leopards last week. But Plumtree had no reservations about now selecting the more experienced but smaller Daniel against the heavy Lions pack.

“Keegan has always punched above his weight and we have won plenty of games with him playing this role. His high work-rate and attacking skills more than make up for any lack of bulk,” he said.

Smit and Deysel are not the only injury concerns. Robust centre Riaan Swanepoel failed a fitness test this week and Plumtree is hoping that he will be ready to face Griquas in Kimberley next week.

Another Sharks captain this year, lock Johann Muller, is still battling after fracturing his arm at the start of the Currie Cup. Muller took another knock yesterday and he may be a late withdrawal from the bench for tomorrow’s game.

“We’ll assess him later but he may have to stand down for Alistair Hargreaves,” said Plumtree.

With Ruan Pienaar now the Sharks’ number one scrumhalf, Plumtree has rotated Rory Kockott and Charl McLeod on the bench.

“Rory will probably be back on the bench next week,” he said.

Lions coach Hans Coetzee has also had injury concerns and has had to make three changes to the side that thumped Boland by 80 points last weekend.

Fullback Alwyn Hollenbach, wing Dusty Noble and prop Gert Muller have all been ruled out, while the Lions coach has dropped lock Willem Stoltz for Nico Luus.

The unpredictable Earl Rose replaces Hollenbach at fullback, Michael Killian is on the wing for Noble while Kevin Buys takes over from Muller.

A major blow for the Lions was the serious leg injury to their lively, try-scoring scrumhalf Jano Vermaark before the Boland game.

Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 5.05pm (SS1) and Jonathan Kaplan is the referee.

Teams

Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche (capt.), 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Juan Hernandez, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Keegan Daniel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Albert van den Berg, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis,1 Beast Mtawarira.

Subs: 16 Skiper Badenhorst, 17 Patric Cilliers, 18 Johann Muller, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Monty Dumond, 22 Adrian Jacobs.

Lions: 15 Earl Rose, 14 Michael Killian, 13 Jannie Boshoff, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Johan Jackson, 10 Herkie Kruger, 9 Chris Jonck, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Derrick Minnie, 6 Baywatch Grobbelaar (capt.), 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Nico Luus, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Hans Van Dyk, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Subs: 16 Torrie Meyer, 17 Wayne Swart, 18 Willem Stoltz, 19 Todd Clever, 20 Ruan Boshoff, 21 Walter Venter, 22 Pieter Engelbrecht.

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