Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

Sharks suffer Lukhanyo Am blow ahead of Challenge Cup final

The Durban-based side are looking to become South Africa's first winners of a major European cup final.

The Sharks have been made favourites to win Friday’s Challenge Cup final against Gloucester at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but if they are to become South Africa’s first winner of a European Cup final, they will have to do so without their regular captain Lukhanyo Am.

Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, who missed the semi-final against Clermont a few weeks ago because of injury, has not recovered from his setback and will also miss Friday’s final.

Am, Vincent Koch and Eben Etzebeth were all sidelined in the United Rugby Championship match against Benetton recently, but it seems the latter two men, also key World Cup winners, will be ready for the match on Friday against Gloucester.

‘Out for a while’

“Am is going to be out for a while,” Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell told the media on Tuesday. “I’m not sure about the extent of the injury.”

It is understood the Bok World Cup winner, who also missed out on the initial selection for the Boks ahead of the World Cup in France last year, before being called into the group during the tournament, is nursing a shoulder and rib problem.

It is not known if the injuries will put the star No 13 out of the Boks’ mid-year Tests. The world champions face Wales in London at the end of next month before taking on Ireland in two Tests in South Africa. The Boks also face Portugal in a historic first Test in Bloemfontein at the end of July.

With Am not available, the Sharks are likely to turn to veteran Francois Venter and rising star Ethan Hooker to man the midfield on Friday, with star man Siya Masuku at 10.

Grant Williams will be at scrumhalf, while the wings are almost certain to be Werner Kok and Makazole Mapimpi. Aphelele Fassie will wear the No 15.

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