Test for young Sharks

2015-04-08 00:00

IT seems as though the rugby gods are out for blood and they are hitting the Sharks hardest as two more senior players face lengthy spells on the sidelines.

Pat Lambie was ruled out on Monday for six weeks after injuring a neck vertebrae during the Sharks 52-10 loss to the Crusaders last weekend. But the gods demanded another sacrificial lamb and flank Jean Deysel yesterday received what is effectively a seven-week ban for kneeing Matt Todd during the same ill-fated game.

That means the Sharks have lost four of their most senior players in just four weeks. Frans Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis still face four and five weeks on the sidelines respectively for their red-card bans, while the newest losses leave the Durban outfit thin on experienced campaigners.

Eighthman Ryan Kankowski looks set to become the fourth captain this season, after Du Plessis, Deysel and Lambie have all worn the captain’s armband. Continuity is what the Sharks need most and it’s going to be left to greener faces to make that happen.

What is most worrying is that two of those captains — well, three considering that Frans Steyn was also named as a co-captain in the pre-season — are out due to ill-discipline. While their actions were deplorable, they seem isolated and circumstantial which director of rugby Gary Gold was adamant about on Saturday night.

Deysel pleaded guilty yesterday to Sanzar for his red-card offence which was accepted by judicial officer Nicholas Davidson. He will take no part in the Sharks campaign until after Saturday, May 23, the day after the Sharks host the Reds in Durban — ruling him out effectively for the rest of the season as the Sharks only have a clash against the Rebels and Stormers after that.

According to Davidson’s findings, Deysel’s offence was categorised as “mid-range” which calls for an eight-week suspension. However, a number of circumstances were considered before Davidson reached his conclusion.

“I added an additional week for Deysel’s recent offending as an aggravating factor. He was suspended for three weeks for foul play last Super Rugby season. I then addressed mitigating personal circumstances and the discount available for an admitted breach, not that there was any defence for his actions,” Davidson’s findings read.

“Deysel, to his credit, did not seek to minimise his actions. He said he was deeply ashamed and that his actions were against everything he stands for, despite his earlier breaches.

“He could only refer to his emotional and irrational response when frustrated at the breakdown, and he asked himself why he acted in such an extreme manner.”

There seems to have been an off-the-field issue that Deysel had also been dealing with that ended up lessening his sentence.

“After my preliminary considerations, I was advised of an off-field mitigating circumstance which may in rare circumstances be brought to account under Regulation 17. In this case, there are truly exceptional circumstances associated with the health of his immediate family which must bear on his state of mind, and go some way to explain his irrational actions. This is not an excuse but a basis to exercise some small leniency in the sanction applied.

“A discount was applied due to these mitigating factors. I took into account that the Sharks have a bye in Round 11, in effect making this a six-match sanction. Therefore, the player is suspended from all forms of rugby up to and including Saturday, May 23, 2015.”

A positive is the Sharks have all this news early this week and can set about preparing for the Lions with the hand they have been dealt.

If fringe players in the squad were complaining about minimal opportunities, they now have their chance to prove their worth.

Fred Zeilinga is set to start at flyhalf until Lambie’s return. The young pivot has performed fairly well in the two short cameos he’s had off the bench this season.

“It’s exciting for a young man like Fred. Pat is a big player for us, he was an outstanding captain while Bismarck has been out, he’s a Springbok and his value in the team is massive,” Sharks winger Odwa Ndungane said yesterday. “But in saying that we’ve got a good squad, we’ve got youngsters like Fred who’s also played a few games – it’s not like he’s new in the system. He knows what is expected of him and he’s got everyone’s backing.”

Renaldo Bothma will likely return to the starting line-up in Deysel’s absence and hopefully continue where he left off — the words “SMASH” written on his wrist tape explaining his lack of regard for his own well being.

Players like flyhalf Lionel Cronje, who has had to content himself with Vodacom Cup duty, could see some action off the bench.

As was the case last year, the Sharks are about to undergo a real test of depth in the weeks to come.

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