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Sharks' World Cup star doubtful for big Euro date

INJURY UPDATE: The Sharks look set to be without the services of one of their World Cup Springboks when they resume their European Challenge Cup campaign next week.

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Eben Etzebeth, one of the key players in the Springboks’ back-to-back World Cup victories, is doubtful for the Round of 16 encounter with Zebre next Sunday.

Etzebeth, South Africa’s Player of the Year, injured his ribs in the Sharks’ 23-13 United Rugby Championship win over Edinburgh on Saturday.

He was injured in the first and at half-time was replaced by young Corne Rahl.

The Sharks suffered a setback when fellow World Cup winner Vincent Koch was ruled out with a ‘tummy bug’.

He was replaced by Ntuthuko Mchunu in the starting 15, with Khwezi Mona on the bench.

Coach John Plumtree said Etzebeth will require a scan to determine the extent of his rib injury.

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“I hope it is just a [rib] cartilage,” the coach said, adding: “If that is the case then it is just two or three weeks.

“He is pretty sore.”

While Plumtree did not formally rule Etzebeth out of next week’s Challenge Cup encounter with the Italian team – giving him time to recover – it appears he is unlikely to win the race against time.

Being out of the URC play-off race, winning the Challenge Cup is now their only way of getting back into Europe’s top flight, the Champions Cup, next season.

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The setback comes as the Sharks secured back-to-back URC victories for the first time this season – to move off the foot of the table.

Fullback Aphelele Fassi was the star after running in a dazzling solo try that was one of several eye-catching breaks, while also pinning back the visitors with his pinpoint left boot.

Edinburgh are still firmly in contention for a play-off spot but struggled to leave any meaningful mark on the South African franchise.

Fassi delivered a moment of magic in the 21st minute to turn the early balance on its head as he took a line-out and sprinted through a large gap in the opposition forwards.

The Springbok’s footwork and pace then swept him around flyhalf Ben Healy and beyond a despairing tackle by Duhan van der Merwe to score.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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