As if the dismal performance over the weekend was not bad enough for Sharks supporters, there was even worse news on Tuesday as Pat Lambie was ruled out for six weeks and Jean Deysel received a seven-week suspension after his stupid red card against the Crusaders.
Captain Lambie has injured his neck vertebrae and his absence continues the curse of the captaincy for the Sharks. Bismarck du Plessis was named as the captain for the season but is currently suspended for an idiotic act of foul play, which his replacement, Deysel, has now replicated. Another member of the leadership team, Francois Steyn, is also suspended for a dangerous tip-tackle.
Eighthman Ryan Kankowski now looks certain to be handed the poisoned chalice and the responsibility of leading his team away from the precipice. Although, as director of rugby Gary Gold points out, the Sharks are still handily placed in the competition – in seventh place on 19 points, the same as conference leaders the Bulls, who do however have a game in hand – there is little doubt that they are standing at a crossroads.
If the Sharks don’t change direction, quickly rediscover some heart and sense of team purpose, then their season will probably sink without a trace. Alternatively, beating the high-flying Lions in Johannesburg this weekend would be just the tonic required to allow them to start forgetting about all the travails of the last few weeks.
Gold is not trying to make excuses but is also not just going to throw in the towel.
“It is an emotional time and it is a challenging week for us. People point at the scoreboard, and that is how it should be. But I honestly feel this adversity gives us an opportunity for real growth.
“We will fix it. I believe in these players, it is a great group of guys. We are just not playing well at the moment and nobody can deny that. But we are still in the hunt. It is not the end of the world, we are not in the bottom half of the table. We are just going to have to show some character. We are going to have to step up to the plate. It is as simple as that,” Gold said.
Lambie’s replacement at flyhalf is likely be Fred Zeilinga, who has shown he is not out of his depth in Super Rugby, while Renaldo Bothma should return to the starting line-up to replace Deysel.