Injuries knock shine off Sharks’ victory over Cheetahs

2010-08-02 00:00

A STRING of injuries, including one to Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, knocked some of the glitter from the Sharks’ excellent Currie Cup win over the Free Sate Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.

The Sharks produced a dramatic final flourish, rushing in 19 points in eight minutes for a 25-13 win, only their second Currie Cup win in Bloemfontein in seven outings.

But the win came at a price with Springbok Pienaar, flyhalf Steve Meyer and fullback Louis Ludik all leaving the field with injuries, and now doubtful to play against the Lions at King’s Park on Saturday.

Head coach John Plumtree said yesterday that Pienaar “looks to have popped his AC” (the joint at the top of the shoulder) and he could be out for the rest of the Tri-Nations.

Meyer, who left the field after taking a heavy knock to the face shortly before half-time, also damaged a knee ligament, said Plumtree, while Ludik “hyper-extened his knee”.

The injuries will leave Plumtree with a problem at flyhalf where he had Pienaar as cover for Meyer, and the Sharks coach could either recall Monty Dumond or use the young Pat Lambie in the pivot role.

Plumtree, reflecting on the win, said the Sharks did well to contain Free State — on the scoreboard, anyway — while not playing well.

“We knew that if we could hang in and keep the score reasonably close with five minutes remaining, we could break them because our replacements reserves were always going to play a big, big role.”

And that is precisely what happened as the Sharks ran in three tries in eight minutes to turn the match on its head.

“Having Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts and even Kyle Cooper [reserve hooker] had a real impact and created the momentum for the tries.”

Plumtree said he had been concerned about the scrum and the lineout where the Sharks conceded possession, free kicks and penalties.

“We had to live off scraps and at times we did build pressure. But the Cheetahs defended well and we turned over too much possession.”

Plumtree said the loss of Free State captain Juan Smith (to a clash of heads) after an hour had been a key moment.

“It was definitely a big blow for them. He provides so much for the Cheetahs — not only his leadership but also in the way he plays.”

The injury to three backs placed Plumtree under pressure. He only had two backline replacements on the bench and had to use flank Keegan Daniel on the wing in the closing minutes.

“Losing three backs to injury does not happen often. But I suppose that is a risk you take when you split the bench with five forwards to two backs.”

Plumtree said the altitude had affected the Sharks after 15 minutes.

“We did a lot of defending and looked tired. But we hung in and in the second half had more possession. The players coming off the bench also had a positive influence.”

Plumtree admitted that the performance “was not a complete one”.

“But the late tries showed the mentality of the team and that they can attack from anywhere.

“It is never easy to come to Bloem and win, and the Cheetahs were really up for this game. And that’s what makes it satisfying.”

Free State coach Naka Drotské paid tribute to the Sharks.

“We knew they would be dangerous because they have so many game-breakers and that showed at the end.

“Our problem is that we are not scoring enough tries and that kept the Sharks in the game. It was very disappointing from the Cheetahs’ point of view.”

It was a highly successful weekend for the Sharks teams in Bloemfontein. The Sharks U21 gained a 27-23 win over Free State U21, while the Sharks U19 stunned their hosts with a 33-13 victory.

See page 18 for the Currie Cup round-up.

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