Waratahs playmaker benched for Sharks clash

2011-05-24 00:00

BERRICK Barnes, the Waratahs and Wallaby flyhalf, is almost certain to miss Saturday evening’s Super Rugby outing against the Sharks at King’s Park.

Barnes, the playmaker in the Waratahs backline, was concussed for a third time during the 29-12 win over the Lions in Sydney at the weekend. The Waratahs have already lost their potent attacker, Wallaby wing Drew Mitchell, to injury.

Barnes left Australia with the Waratahs on Sunday but it is highly unlikely that he will be risked against the Sharks.

Barnes was also concussed against the Brumbies in March and he was sidelined for a month, but he said he was confident the latest incident was not as serious.

Barnes told reporters that the Waratahs are looking forward to the tour, which will also involve a game against the Bulls in Pretoria next week. The Waratahs, in spite of their relatively successful season, have been heavily criticised for their conservative kicking rather than a running game.

The Waratahs scored five tries when downing the Lions and Barnes said they had varied their tactics well. “The irony is that three of our tries came from kicks,” he added.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said one win from the two tour games would give his side an excellent chance of reaching the play-offs.

“We targeted this patch [against the Lions, Sharks and Bulls]. We’ve got ourselves in a position where it’s in our hands.

“South Africa’s not an easy trip, especially the teams we’re playing, but we’ve got a good run home when we get back,” he said.

The Waratahs are in fifth spot on the log on 45 points with the Sharks seventh (43) and a play-off spot (the top six) is at stake on Saturday.

The Sharks, after a disappointing weekend that saw them drop off the pace following their loss to the Bulls, now face a massive test of their character and commitment.

Their remaining games are against the Waratahs (home) and the Cheetahs, Lions and Bulls, all away, over the following four weekends.

What is particularly worrying for coach John Plumtree is how emphatically the Sharks, who have prided themselves on their physicality, have been out-muscled by the big guns in the South African conference and they failed to pick up a single bonus point in losing to the Stormers (twice) and the Bulls.

The Sharks, if they are to top the South African conference and avoid travelling for the play-offs, have to win all four of their remaining games and hope that the Stormers slip up.

The Stormers’ remaining games include the relatively easy ones against the Brumbies and Rebels to complete their tour.

While the Sharks travel to Loftus to meet the Bulls, the Stormers face the current title-holders in Cape Town before they end their league season in Bloemfontein where they face the dangerous Cheetahs.

The Sharks should have captain John Smit, now recovered from his calf injury, back at loosehead, while the in-form Keegan Daniel has completed his suspension and will return for Jacques Botes on the flank.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 5.05 pm.

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