Australia v South Africa, Tri-Nations, August 29
Barnes and Sharpe ruled out for Wallabies
August 25, 2009
Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe will miss the Perth clash against the Springboks © Getty Images
Ben Alexander Berrick Barnes Dan Carter Robbie Deans Rocky Elsom Will Genia Matt Giteau Sir Graham Henry Richie McCaw Ma'a Nonu Nathan Sharpe
Barnes will miss Saturday's match in Perth due to a concussion suffered in last weekend's 19-18 defeat to New Zealand while Sharpe has failed to overcome a shoulder injury sustained in the same game.
The Wallabies are currently propping up the Tri-Nations table after three losses and must win their final three games - two against the unbeaten Springboks and another against the All Blacks - and hope other results go their way if they are to upset the odds and claim the southern hemisphere crown.
But coach Robbie Deans' preparations will have been severely disrupted by the loss of Sharpe, regarded as one of the world's best lineout exponents, and the play-maker Barnes who has been one of the side's star performers this year.
However, there was some good news from the Australia camp, with rugged flanker Rocky Elsom and young fullback James O'Connor both showing signs of improvements after picking up injuries against the All Blacks.
Deans is confident Elsom (ankle) and O'Connor (leg) will be fit to face the Springboks at Subiaco Oval.
"Rocky's still in consideration. He picked up a bit of an ankle complaint, but it doesn't seem too bad," Deans said. "He has started moving and is still a prospect. It will be good to have him there and it was good to have him back last week where he did remarkably well in his first outing. He made a difference to the lineout and likes the contest in all areas.
"(O'Connor) ran a lot this morning at a reasonable sort of tempo, so he's looking promising. We expect him to be available."
Sharpe is a big loss and Mark Chisholm will likely take over calling the plays on his return from injury and Deans is confident he and Dean Mumm can perform well.
"I don't think it's (Sharpe's shoulder) is anything too sinister, he just took a knock to it and this isn't a game you'd want to go into with a player who wasn't 100%," he said. "We are fortunate to have a player like Mark Chisholm become available to us again. He's been out for a significant period of time with injury, but has had a couple of club games and is back in consideration as well. That timing is fortunate for us really.
"Mummy is pretty quick on detail and has been with us for a while now. This is his second season with the Wallabies and, while he hasn't had that much game time, he has been around the group and understands the detail pretty well. It's good to have him there."
Barnes' neck does not appear to be an injury concern going forward, but he is still suffering some after-effects from last Saturday's defeat. Deans and his medical staff made the early call to leave him out, and the coach is confident whoever replaces him will do well.
"Berrick is out and it's just precautionary. He took a knock, doesn't feel 100 percent and has some symptoms. He's not feeling great, so we won't mess with that," he said. "It doesn't change things enormously for us, but we will bring in a different player and have some blokes available to us who aren't dissimilar in terms of their skill set.
"It depends on how we choose to play the game. We'll settle on the strategy that we feel will give us the best chance to prevail."
The kicking of the Springboks is the major reason they are on top of the Tri-Nations table at present, but Deans is confident his team can try some different things to offset that this week.
"Where the Springboks have been really effective is their kicking game has been remarkably accurate, and they've been able to bring a lot of pressure to bear through isolating players," he said.
"We are getting better at dealing with that and have made significant strides since the first outing at Eden Park. We are confident that we will be much better at coping with that strategy and it's about our personnel understanding their roles. To beat them we have to try to force them to play a different way and then force them into error."
Deans did not want to discuss the Australian Rugby Union's resolution with Lote Tuqiri, but hopes it ends talk of the matter.
"Resolution is good for all parties, but there's not a lot that comes out of it other than that," he said. "I'd like to think it hasn't been a distraction for the players, but they all know Lote and are aware of it."