Massive Hernandez blow for the Sharks, but Reece-Edwards is back on board

2010-01-07 00:00

THE Sharks have suffered a devastating start to the new year with their Argentinian flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez ruled out of the Super 14 with a back injury.

The talented international flyhalf flew home to Argentina from Durban yesterday and will undergo back surgery that will rule him out of the game for six months.

His departure is a serious blow for the Sharks and head coach John Plumtree, who had planned on pairing Hernandez with scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar at halfback.

The Sharks medical staff believed that Hernandez, with treatment, would be ready for the new Super 14 season, but the flyhalf has been persuaded to return home for a back operation.

Plumtree may well now have to shift Pienaar back to flyhalf, but he said yesterday that the Sharks will be scouring the rugby world for a possible replacement for Hernandez.

“Yeah, it is a setback and it won’t be easy to find a quality flyhalf now that contracts have been signed and players are committed.

“But we have Ruan [Pienaar] and Monty Dumond who has come on strongly in the last three seasons.

“Ruan does want to play scrumhalf, and I had planned on using him there, but he will do what is best for the team.”

Compounding the Sharks’ flyhalf problems is that Pienaar underwent minor knee surgery after the Springboks’ November tour and Plumtree said he is still five weeks away from full fitness.

The Sharks’ opener is against the Chiefs in Durban on February 13.

“We hope to have him back for the start of the Super 14, but it does mean that we will not be able to prepare for the season with him at flyhalf. The pre-season friendlies (against the Stormers and the Western Force) in Cape Town at the end of the month will provide Dumond with a wonderful opportunity to show that he can make the step up to Super 14 level.”

Plumtree said that Dumond has shown he has the potential to succeed at Super 14 level.

“I would say that he has already shown that he is a better flyhalf than some of the guys playing for other sides in the Super 14. But we will look also outside the franchise as well to increase our depth at flyhalf.”

Young Guy Cronje, who played flyhalf in the Currie Cup last season, has had surgery on his foot, while Len Oli­vier has been released by the Sharks.

Plumtree said that young Pat Lambie, who enjoyed an excellent season at fullback for the Sharks U21 squad last year, could provide him with another option.

Meanwhile, former Springbok fullback Hugh Reece-Edwards is back where he was over a decade ago as Sharks assistant coach. Plumtree said that Reece-Edwards has joined the Sharks coaching staff and will take charge of the backline. Grant Bashford will continue as the skills and defensive coach, Plumtree said.

When Ian McIntosh retired as Sharks head coach in 1999, he was succeeded by his assistant Reece-Edwards. But Reece-Edwards and his captain Wayne Fyvie enjoyed scant support from the senior players in 2000 and both were gone in a season.

In the words of Bok and Sharks captain John Smit, “Reece was undermined by some of the older Sharks (among them Ollie le Roux and Chris Rossouw) … mercenaries recruited from the interior who had no idea of the Natal rugby ethos”.

Now, after doing the coaching rounds at club and school level, Reece-Edwards is back and Sharks supporters will be hoping he adds an attacking spark to the backplay…after Plumtree finds a flyhalf.

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