Cobus Reinach and Philip van der Walt have returned home after suffering injuries in Dunedin, with the former set for an extended period on the sidelines. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Reinach hobbled from the field with a knee injury after taking a late hit from Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga. There are fears that he may have ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, which could rule him out of action for the remainder of the year in what would be a massive blow for the Sharks and Springboks.
The Sharks confirmed on Monday that both players had headed back to Durban, with further scans set to confirm the severity of the injuries. It's believed that Van der Walt's injury is not too serious, but he wouldn't have been available this week. Stefan Ungerer has been called up for Reinach, while, interestingly, lock Giant Mtyanda will replace Van der Walt.
Michael Claassens is expected to start at scrumhalf against the Chiefs this weekend, while Dan du Preez could return to the No 8 berth if he has sufficiently recovered from an injury that precluded him from last Friday's match. The Sharks would have also been encouraged by the performance of Jean Deysel, who came off the bench to replace Van der Walt, and produced an impressive cameo.
Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold hailed the character shown by the Sharks as they held on for a one-point win that ended a four-match winless run.
'We knew it was going to be difficult down in Dunedin playing against the current champions. There was added pressure with the fact that they had lost to the Reds a couple of weeks before. Ahead of their five-week run now, they definitely identified us as a team they should get an easy win over. What I’m most proud of is that a year ago the Sharks team that came here not only played particularly poorly, but towards the latter stage of the game actually gave up, which was disappointing. I think the character we showed was huge.'
Although the Sharks again battled to get their attacking game going, Gold insisted the team was heading in the right direction.
'I suppose a lot of people can find fault with the fact that we haven’t scored tries, but I think there was a lot of intent shown, and there were some fantastic phases with Garth [April] and Willie [le Roux] running the show. Our buildup and confidence is getting there. In saying that, they only scored one try against us and it was a very well taken try.
'All in all, coming to New Zealand and putting up a good performance and getting a result is what it's all about. It’s disappointing that we haven’t scored tries, and we’re certainly going to be putting a lot of time and attention into it. But I’m not going to apologise for the fact that I feel the boys showed character and fight to hold out for what is a memorable victory over here.'
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