Alberts out for four weeks

2013-02-19 00:00

WILLEM Alberts, the Sharks’ burly, barging Springbok flank, will miss the opening four rounds of Super Rugby.

The 119 kg Alberts has been nursing an ongoing shoulder problem and has missed the Sharks’ two pre-season friendlies.

Assistant Shark coach Hugh Reece-Edwards confirmed yesterday that Alberts would undergo a minor surgical procedure on his shoulder today and would be sidelined for four weeks.

He joins fellow-loose forward Keegan Daniel, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, centre Tim Whitehead, flyhalf Butch James and prop Dale Chadwick on the injury list ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The good news, according to Reece-Edwards, is that Springbok number eight Ryan Kankowski is ready to fire after his week in the gym following a six-month club rugby stint in Japan.

“Ryan is right back in the pecking order,” said Reece-Edwards yesterday. “We wanted to keep him out of the pre-season games and give him one good week of preparation. He’s been playing [in Japan] and he’s match fit, but we wanted to give him time to settle back in, spend time with family and have a good, hard week in the gym.”

Whether Kankowski or Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee, who played against the Pumas on Friday night, starts at number eight against the Cheetahs remains to be seen, but coach John Plumtree does have options.

Jean Deysel is an obvious replacement for Alberts, with Jacques Botes, who scored five tries in the two-pre-season friendlies, or Coetzee on the other flank.

The talented Pieter-Steph du Toit, who spent time on the flank for the Baby Boks last year, can also be used off the side of the scrum.

Reece-Edwards said the physicality the Sharks encountered against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday night “was up there with anything we’ll experience in Super Rugby this season”.

“Coming back without injuries was pleasing, as was some of the stuff we did in the game.

“There are some areas we still need to work on, like the breakdown, and that is why these games are valuable in helping to identify problems.”

He said the pre-season action had helped the coaches settle on combinations. “There are now more answers than questions, and we’re comfortable that we have a number of partnerships we can play around with and at times selection may be on a horses-for-courses basis, or when we need to give players a rest.

“But everyone is on song and ready to play. We’re really excited. Now every game we play is for a reason, for points, to win and make progress.”

Reece-Edwards said that traditionally the Cheetahs were stronger at the start of the season and they often suffered later because they did not have the depth.

“We know whenever we play them up there in Bloemfontein, we’re in for a heck of a match and this week will be no different.”

He said the Sharks were expecting to face three Springboks returning from injury in prop Coenie Oosthuizen, flank Heinrich Brüssow and flyhalf Johan Goosen.

“They haven’t played in the last few weeks and the Cheetahs have been trying out a few combinations, which indicates that they have more depth than usual.

“There is no doubt that they would have learned a lot from the three games they have played, all against big sides — the Lions, Stormers and Bulls — and they’ll be really confident going into this game.

“It’s going to be a massive game, certainly the opening 20 minutes. From then it will open up and we just hope that our conditioning is right up where we think it is.”

Kick-off is at 5.05 pm.

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