Kolisi knee injury sours tough weekend for Sharks as URC quarterfinals decided

Kolisi knee injury sours tough weekend for Sharks as URC quarterfinals decided
Siya Kolisi of the Sharks sustained a knee injury during their United Rugby Championship clash with Munster at Kings Park in Durban on 22 April 2023. (Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Gallo Images)

Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi could be in doubt for the Rugby World Cup 2023 after suffering a knee injury against Munster in the final group match of the United Rugby Championship at the weekend.

There is a deflating and familiar feeling for the Springboks after captain Siya Kolisi went down with what looked like a serious knee injury playing for the Sharks against Munster at the weekend.

The Bok skipper hyper-extended his knee when he was tackled by Munster wing Calvin Nash in the fifth minute of the United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at King’s Park in Durban, Kolisi’s last home game before joining French club Racing 92 next season. 

Although medics strapped his knee tightly, Kolisi looked unhappy. He played on for another minute or two but withdrew himself from the action.

With only 20 weeks to go before Rugby World Cup 2023 in France, the next few days will leave rugby watchers anxiously waiting for definitive news about Kolisi’s injury.

An injured Siya Kolisi watches his Sharks teammates agaist Munster at Kings Park on 22 April 2023. (Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Gallo Images)

Sharks coach Neil Powell would not make any predictions about the state of the injury after the 22-22 draw against Munster. The Sharks earned an away quarterfinal against Leinster, which will be played in a fortnight.

Barring a minor miracle though, Kolisi will not be on the plane when the Sharks travel to Dublin to take on Leinster in the URC quarterfinals.

 “We’ll have to wait for the doctor to do a proper assessment on Siya’s knee and give the feedback to us,” Powell said after the match. “It was unfortunate that we lost Siya so early in the game. He is influential as a captain and as a player.”

The Sharks threw away a 22-3 lead early in the second half as the Irish side fought back to earn a draw. Kolisi’s leadership and composure was missed when the match became tight.

Kolisi was in a similar position in 2019. He suffered a serious knee injury in May of that year playing for the Stormers against the Highlanders in a Super Rugby match and was in a race against time to make it to RWC 2019 in Japan.

He opted against surgery and chose an aggressive course of physiotherapy four years ago. It proved to be the right decision as Kolisi made it to Japan, although he was nowhere near his best at the beginning of the tournament.

As the Boks progressed through the competition, Kolisi’s fitness improved and he was nearly back to his best by the time of the final.

Hopefully the prognosis is not as serious this time around, as he is four years older and time is again against him with the start of the title defence only five months away.

Barring a minor miracle though, Kolisi will not be on the plane when the Sharks travel to Dublin to take on Leinster in the URC quarterfinals.

Curwin Bosch suffered what looked like a serious rib injury when he fell badly attempting to take a high ball during the match.

The Sharks are already without lock Eben Etzebeth, who was ruled out of the remainder of the URC with a severe shoulder injury, also against Munster, on 1 April.

The Bulls’ Harold Vorster scores against Leinster at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on 22 April 2023. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

The draw also meant the Sharks only finished eighth in the standings – the last play-off qualifying berth. They also missed out on European Champions Cup qualification for next season as a consequence of the Munster result. For a franchise whose stated goal is to become the strongest club in world rugby, it’s a big blow.

The Sharks could still sneak in the Champions Cup back door, which would require winning the URC though. In that case seventh-placed club Connacht, would lose their Champions Cup place. To do that though, there is the small matter of getting past Leinster in the quarterfinals.

“We all know about Leinster’s quality and their brand of rugby,” Powell said. “It is a massive challenge to beat them away. But we showed what we can do in that first 40 minutes against Munster. If we can put it together for 80 minutes, we can beat anyone.”

Stormers, Bulls to square off again

The Bulls impressive 62-7 win over Leinster’s second stringers at Loftus ensured they claimed sixth overall in the standings. That secured them a quarterfinal against the third-placed Stormers in a repeat of last year’s final.

For the Bulls, it was the best possible outcome as they avoided overseas travel to face Leinster, second-place Ulster or fourth-placed Glasgow.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Kings Park to say farewell to Kolisi and Du Toit when Sharks take on Munster

“It’s always nice to play the Stormers and it will be nice to play them because we’ll be staying in South Africa,” Bulls assistant coach Chris  Rossouw said.

“Going back to Cape Town will be nice. We’ve built some momentum over time and now we’ve got the big ones. Momentum is very important for the morale and the confidence of the team. It’s also important for cohesion, so the momentum comes at the right time.”

For the Stormers, who comfortably locked down third-place on the standings, they will use a bye next weekend (as Champions Cup returns without any SA teams) to rest and switch off.

Coach John Dobson said after his side’s 38-22 win over Benetton in Stellenbosch on Friday that he intended to give the players some time off over the coming long weekend.

There will be training early this week but they will be off from Thursday.

“Our most important thing now is to freshen up. So we will get some detail planted, get a nice sweat in on Wednesday and then give them the long weekend. Less is more at this stage,” Dobson said.

Siya Kolisi of the Sharks hands off Munster’s Shane Daly at Kings Park on 22 April 2023. (Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Gallo Images)

While the Stormers will be confident against the Bulls, who have not beaten them in the URC in five attempts, the familiarity of an old foe also means they have less of an unknown factor against each other.

The Stormers also have some injury problems with wing Seabelo Senatla concussed. He should be cleared in time for the quarterfinal though.

Read more in Daily Maverick: To win the World Cup, Boks must embrace European quirks

The defending champions have also been in patchy form recently. They laboured against Benetton after losing 26-24 to Munster a week earlier. The Bulls, by contrast, beat Zebre 78-12 before the record win over Leinster.

“It looks like they [the Stormers] are struggling, but one needs to understand that the playoffs are a different kettle of fish altogether,” Rossouw said.

“Things work in cycles and it looks like they’ve lost a bit of momentum, but they’ll plan and come back well. They played well in the second half against Benetton, something that showed that you can’t just live on the perception that they’re struggling.

“It looks like they’re struggling a little bit and looks like it’s the best time to hit them. The next two weeks will tell which team is in the best form.” DM

URC quarterfinal schedule on 5/6 May

(Home teams first)

Leinster vs Sharks

Ulster vs Connacht

Stormers vs Bulls

Glasgow Warriors vs Munster


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