Griquas sweating over injured captain ahead of Final
INJURY UPDATE: Griquas are hoping for a double dosage of good news ahead of hosting the Currie Cup Final in Kimberley on Saturday.
Grapevine has it that government will open sporting stadiums this week, ensuring the Final will be played in front of a 100 percent capacity crown when Griquas host the Pumas.
It will be Griquas’ first appearance in the Final in 52 years and the first time ever the Pumas will feature in the showcase event of South Africa’s premier domestic competition.
However, of more concern is the health of Griquas captain Niel Otto, who was taken from the field early in the second half of their 30-19 semifinal win over the Bulls at the weekend – when he was knocked out cold, after getting his head on the wrong side of a tackle.
The 25-year-old loose forward, Otto, who joined Griquas from the Pumas in the off-season – having previously featured with the Sharks and Western Province – is in a race against time to be fit for the Final.
Forwards coach Barend Pieterse said they are “hopeful” of Otto being cleared, but he still has to pass all the Head Injury Assessment tests.
He explained that the ‘blue card’ issued during the game meant the referee suspected that there was a concussion.
“He has to follow the HIA protocols now,” Pieterse told @rugby365com.
The concerns over their current captain follow after Griquas lost their first-choice skipper, No.8 Ruan Steenkamp, to a knee injury earlier this year.
The influential loose forward injured the medial collateral ligament in his knee in the 41-20 win over the Pumas in a Round Three match in Kimberley back in February.
If Otto does not get clearance to play this week, centre Sango Xamlashe is set to take over the captaincy in the Final.
He took over the on-field leadership this past weekend when Otto left the field and was the University of Pretoria skipper in 2021 – before his move to Kimberley.
The good news is that Stormers-bound scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer and veteran Simon Westraadt are set to return for the Final.
Both players took heavy head knocks in the come-from-behind win over the Pumas in Nelspruit in Round 14.
They missed last week’s semifinal win over the Bulls, but could return for the big occasion.
(Continue below …)
* Meanwhile Griquas officials are hoping that government decides to fully open the stadiums this week.
“That will be amazing,” Pieterse said of the possibility of allowing full stadiums, adding: “I was fortunate to be involved, as a player, in a few Currie Cup finals and we always played in sold-out stadiums.
“A Currie Cup Final in Kimberley with a sold-out stadium is something everyone is excited about.”
Pieterse said another challenge is to keep the players’ emotions in check, given that none of them would have played in a Currie Cup Final before/.
“We had a chat about what is important for us and what has been working throughout the season,” Pieterse said.
“It is still somewhat surreal for us to realise we have a home Final.
“However, it looked like the players bought into the message from coach Pieter Bergh – to stay focused and remember what worked for us this season.”
He said they don’t want to inhibit the players and that they must “enjoy the occasion”.