Lions take on Sharks without in-form Whiteley

2016-06-30 06:00
The Lions will be without captain Warren Whiteley (pictured) when they meet the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday. PHOTO: gallo images

The Lions will be without captain Warren Whiteley (pictured) when they meet the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday. PHOTO: gallo images

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THE Lions will take on the Sharks in the Super Rugby game at Ellis Park on Saturday evening without their captain and Springbok number eight, Warren Whiteley.

The in-form Whiteley has been sidelined for the rest of the Super Rugby campaign after suffering a shoulder injury during the third Test against Ireland in Port Elizabeth at the weekend.

The Springbok, who made his first start for the Springboks in Port Elizabeth after playing off the bench in the first two Tests, damaged the AC joint in his right shoulder.

The Lions confirmed that an MRI scan yesterday had revealed a grade III injury. The specialist said that he did not require surgery, but would be out of action for about six weeks and should be ready for the Rugby Championship starting late in August.

The Lions will now be captained by flank Jaco Kriel.

The Sharks are also likely to be without their captain, flyhalf Pat Lambie, who is recovering from concussion.

Indeed, it has been mostly gloom and doom for the Sharks since they last played a Super Rugby game and they will be under the cosh when they resume hostilities against the log-leading Lions.

The Sharks went into their weekend bye before the June international break on the back of a 53-0 crushing of the Kings and they were in positive mood after overcoming unrealistic travel demands to record three successive wins. But, while they spent the weekend resting up in Durban late in May, the Lions thumped the Bulls 56-20 at Loftus to open up a seven-point gap on the Sharks in their conference.

The Sharks’ only chance of now heading the conference, and hosting a quarter-final, is to beat the Lions on Saturday and then hope that Johan Ackermann’s confident squad also lose to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. (The Lions other remaining league game will be a doddle, a home fixture against the hapless Kings).

The Sharks follow the Lions’ game with home fixtures against the Cheetahs and the Sunwolves and will have to win all three to challenge the Lions.

It has also been a bad month for the Sharks in terms of personnel and they will take on the Lions without suspended Springbok fullback Willie le Roux and, probably, Lambie. Compounding the problem is that Joe Pietersen, an experienced replacement at either fullback or flyhalf, broke his collar bone playing in a Mickey Mouse 10-a-side rugby tournament in Mauritius last week.

The form of the Sharks XV in the Currie Cup highlights the lack of depth in the province. The Sharks second-stringers have played 13 Currie Cup games and won only three. They lie 13th on the 15-team log, above Eastern Province and Namibia.

The Sharks will face a Lions team containing seven players who saw action for the Springboks on Saturday night - Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert and Julian Redelinghuys.

The Sharks will have only two - Beast Mtawarira and JP Pietersen - following Le Roux’s suspension. Lwazi Mvovo, dropped from the starting line-up, was on the bench in Port Elizabeth while Garth April was among four squad players regarded as surplus to requirements and sent home before the third Test.

Saturday’s game at Ellis Park kicks off at 5.10pm.

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