The fitness of Willem Alberts, Franco Marais and Conrad Hoffmann are the new concerns facing Sharks coach Gary Gold ahead of his team announcement on Thursday for their SuperRugby match against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
The absence of the inspirational physical presence of Alberts would obviously be a massive blow for the Sharks as they take on the runaway leaders of the competition and, although Renaldo Bothma is fit to play, the only other specialist loose forward on tour is Etienne Oosthuizen, who did not have the best of games last weekend against the Highlanders.
The arrival of the experienced Kyle Cooper from South Africa this week means the reserve hooker berth is taken care of should Marais not pass a late fitness test, but the player Cooper replaced, Cobus Reinach, has left a massive gap at scrumhalf.
Reinach has fractured his hand, according to Gold, and his substitute against the Highlanders, Hoffmann, now also has a niggle. The inexperienced Stefan Ungerer could therefore be in for a baptism of fire at The Cake Tin.
After four successive defeats – two of them in ignominious fashion – Gold said he does not believe he needs to light a fire under his squad just yet.
“For me the big stick comes out when you have a look at your play and get a sense of a group of players who are lethargic, non-committed and are not trying hard enough. I do not believe that this is the case at the moment.
“Over the course of my coaching career I have had to use the big stick. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means satisfied with our performances, but at this moment in time I see a group of players who are hurting a lot and whose pride is at stake.
“As a coach and a leader, one needs to assess the situation. Everybody goes through tough times. I do not believe for a minute that this group lacks commitment, in fact, the players are committed to fixing the problem.
“Difficult times require calm heads and mature leadership. We have a great group of senior guys who are committed to seeing out this campaign. A lot of lessons have been learnt and a huge amount of lessons can be taken out of this campaign, which will only benefit us down the line,” Gold said.