It is just Week Three into a 17 week competition, but already injuries are affecting Super Rugby teams in 2018. Some more than others, so to those pundits and fans who live their lives by the fitness and form of teams, how bad is it for them?
Any injury report, will give only an insight into the player stocks. News recently could see the Chiefs run out an entire XV of injured players, but they have not all just amounted at once. No mass injury plague….though fans can all feel depressed, as more names seem to be added.
Looking at the last two weeks, the names are mounting. Dominic Bird [see main picture] Atu Moli and Nepo Laulala (Chiefs), Rob Valetini and Rob Simmons (Brumbies), Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders), Damian Willemse of the Stormers – to name just a few.
News: Stormers set to lose Schickerling for the Super Rugby season: Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has confirmed that JD Schickerling could miss most of the Super Rugby season due to an injury. Twenty-two year old lock Schickerling was… https://t.co/gg7IC0uwj0 #SuperRugby #RugbyXV
— RugbyXV (@RugbyXVsite) March 5, 2018
With names like this, it is no wonder fans, coaches and even pundits are beginning to take notice. And though it is likely to happen to many different players over any different year, some feel their team is cursed from the start anyway.
Super Rugby injuries started before the Year even started
But even before the year even began, some players were already added to those lists. Some players requiring pre-season operations. A few timed them to be ready for the beginning of the new season, while others ruled them out of contention until weeks into the championship race.
Here, you think Kieran Read. The All Blacks skipper could not rise to meet the challenge of the final tests of 2017. So wisely, he chose for an operation in December. The projected recovery timeline puts him returning for the Crusaders after Easter 2018.
While his, and some others were by careful planning, others recently have come as an unplanned ‘surprise’.
— 1 NEWS – Sport (@1NewsSportNZ) December 13, 2017
He, along with Tom Sanders, Israel Dagg, Otere Black, Dane Coles and others, would only look on as their team mates prepared for a new season.
And some recent events have shown just how badly undercut teams aspirations can become; of how much depth they have, as Week Four fixtures fast approaches on Friday.
Pre-Season saw early Injuries causing issue from the very start
When pre-season arrived, and the intensity of training rose higher and higher, the exact fitness levels tested. Minutes turned into quarters, and then full halves of rugby. Opposed training inter-squad matches became full match simulations. Some practice ground injuries claimed names like Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Steenkamp and Eben Etzebeth.
Weeks before the real action began, preseason fixtures took attention. The agreed trips away/hosting other teams, saw the heat turned up. And by then, some players received bangs and bruises. A few felt those hits a little more, with names like Izaia Perese and Tim Nanai-Williams falling during these ‘friendly matches’.
Samoan international Tim Nanai-Williams has been ruled out for the entire #SuperRugby season with a shoulder injury 🤕
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) February 26, 2018
That affected the early round fixtures. As South African teams opened Super Rugby, the next week was the real beginning of Super Rugby 2018.
And at this point, some players were still having to repair ligament damage, strains and tears. Jerome Kaino missed the trip to Dunedin, with Richard Buckman unable to play for the hosts. Scott Sio of the ACT Brumbies, also missed the opening round, in a common delay of many players–so coaches can be sure that player fitness is cared for, over a full 17 week calendar.
Minds looking ahead to Weeks 10 or 15, is a critical point in managing a full squad. Ask any UK Rugby coach, the demands mean holding a few back now, will pay in the end. So elements like the harder grounds in March, compared to the more winter-like conditions in May or June, can also impact on squad fitness and create injuries in Super Rugby.
Injuries affecting Super Rugby sides after Week Three
Take a look at any side making plans this week, and the injury lists are full. Augustine Pulu missed his trip to South Africa, and Richie Mo’unga has had to have an operation on his broken jaw. So the weekly changes to squads can both affect, and interrupt sides continuity and expectations.
Ash Dixon, the co-captain for the Highlanders will not be able to help lead his side on Friday; an ongoing back injury, as is the Richard Buckman shoulder issue. Then Pete Samu pulled up badly this week, so changes a plenty for the game of the round.
Hurricanes v Crusaders requires both squads at 100%, so any injuries matter. And without Dane Coles, the Hurricanes are relying on Ricky Riccatelli to continue his able form. Such intense matches, players hold little back–but the history of injuries in key matches, is like a ‘sorry tale’ of woe.
Reserves are the key. The guys coming in have to be both able to step-up, but also be fit themselves. And after Week Three, the pens, stats and team lists are already being scratched out and altered. And it will surely continue. It is Super Rugby.
‘We are not playing tiddly-winks here’.
Super Rugby Week Four fixtures:
- Highlanders v Stormers – Forsyth-Barr Stadium, Dunedin
- Rebels v Brumbies – AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Hurricanes v Crusaders – Westpac Stadium, Wellington
- Reds v Bulls – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
- Sharks v Sunwolves – Kings Park, Durban
- Lions v Blues – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
- Jaguares v Waratahs – Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images