Sharks’ stars travel but doubts over midfield

rugby20 May 2024 16:35| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Lukhanyo Am © Gallo Images

All the star Hollywoodbets Sharks players who were involved in injury scares in the recent match against Benetton have flown with the squad to London for Friday night’s EPCR Challenge Cup final against Gloucester, but the Durbanites may face a midfield crisis.

Although the Sharks have not announced the squad that has flown to the United Kingdom for Friday’s clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it is understood the advance guard of players that left on Saturday and therefore missed any involvement in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship loss to Cardiff was made up of 20 players.

Another eight left after the weekend, and significantly both of the centres involved in the Cardiff game were on the plane. That is reflective of the mini-crisis the Sharks may be facing at centre, with skipper Lukhanyo Am still walking around in an arm sling late last week, while the Sharks’ medical staff are working around the clock to get Ethan Hooker ready for the game.

Hooker injured his ankle a few weeks ago and is understood to be in serious doubt for the final. Although he is still relatively new to this level of rugby, the youngster has been impressive in the senior games he has played for the Sharks and there is a belief he will make a difference to his team’s chances should he be available.

In the meantime, Eduan Keyter and Diego Appolis, the two centres who fronted in the 34-14 loss to Cardiff at Hollywoodbets Kings Park at the weekend, will be preparing themselves for possible inclusion in the team.


The news is good when it comes to all the other players who were carrying injury doubts, with Eben Etebeth and Vincent Koch in London currently, along with the other Springbok World Cup winners Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Grant Williams and Makazole Mapimpi (who came home early from France but was part of the winning team in Japan four years prior to that).

The one positive that the Sharks took out of the defeat to Cardiff was the cameo played by Curwin Bosch as a late-game replacement. Bosch has been out injured for a while but made an impressive return as a reserve against Cardiff.

“I was really pleased with the way Curwin went when he came on,” said coach John Plumtree after the game.

The Sharks team for the final, which the Sharks must win if they want to be promoted to the Investec Champions Cup next year, will be announced on Thursday.

Should the Sharks win the final, the eighth-placed finisher in the URC will drop out of the Champions Cup qualification bracket and make way for the KZN team. There is still a chance though that there could be four South African teams in the elite Cup competition next year as the Vodacom Bulls and the DHL Stormers have already qualified and the Emirates Lions can join them and the Sharks if they move from their current ninth position to seventh in the final round.

But the Lions do face a difficult final game as they have to go to Cape Town to play the fifth-placed Stormers, who will have had their confidence boosted from their good nine log points from 10 possible reward from their two-match tour.