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Genia gone for six months as captain's curse strikes


Greg Growden

Bad break … South Africa's Zane Kirchner collides with Wallabies' captain Will Genia during the host's 26-19 win ...

Bad break … South Africa's Zane Kirchner collides with Wallabies' captain Will Genia during the host's 26-19 win in Perth on Saturday night. Genia will be sidelined for at least six months. Photo: Reuters

THE Wallabies are pondering whether it is wise to officially announce another captain after Will Genia become their third Test skipper in a row to suffer a season-ending injury.

As Wallabies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper said yesterday: ''I certainly won't be putting my hand up for the captaincy. It's a curse.''

Genia will be sidelined for at least six months after damaging his right knee at virtually the same time that prop Ben Alexander scored the match-winning try that enabled the Wallabies to overhaul South Africa 26-19 in Perth on Saturday night.

Genia twisted his knee when he landed after taking a high ball in the 71st minute. It twisted again when he was then hit in the tackle, forcing him to immediately beckon for medical attention.

''I heard three cracks … I'm gutted, really disappointed, but at the same time with the Test victory the feeling is bittersweet,'' Genia said yesterday.

Genia follows original Test captain James Horwill and his replacement David Pocock to the sidelines for a long period. Now the Wallabies have no one left from this season's leadership group - Horwill, Pocock, Genia, Pat McCabe and James O'Connor.

And Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is in no rush to name a new leadership contingent because of the fear it will further jinx a group that has been decimated by injuries this season.

''I don't think we will have a formal leader any more. We might just have someone who leads the group out the tunnel, and then have a meeting involving a few good men on Monday morning to discuss the week,'' he said.

Nick Phipps will take over the halfback duties against Argentina on the Gold Coast on Saturday night, while feisty Western Force No.9 Brett Sheehan has been called in as his back-up. It wouldn't surprise if Sheehan gets plenty of game time against the Pumas as his combative nature would be ideal against this confrontational opponent.

A new second-rower will also be required as Sitaleki Timani is expected to be unavailable after suffering a minor hamstring strain. The most likely scenario is Rob Simmons moving into the starting XV, as Deans explained yesterday that it was unlikely Dave Dennis would be transferred from the back row to cover the vacant lock spot.

Timani is almost as big a loss as Genia, as the Waratahs' second-rower has been easily the team's most consistent performer the past three Tests. Deans knows he will miss Timani's aggression and attention to detail.

''He's been at three Australian franchises and none of them have opted to start him routinely, which astounds me,'' Deans said. ''He's shown that he is more than worthy of that.''

Although the team's goalkicker Berrick Barnes hobbled off, he is expected to be in contention for the Pumas Test. While centre McCabe will again be available, after playing 30 minutes of club football in Canberra on Saturday, he is scheduled to return via the bench. Benn Robinson, after being replaced at the 30-minute mark, could be overlooked at loose-head prop for James Slipper.

Delighted that his team repeatedly repelled the Springboks in the final 20 minutes, Deans was unimpressed that they earlier had not followed instructions and kept chip-kicking away possession. In the first half, there was a glut of meaningless kicks and Deans said it was ''not part of our strategy''.

''Our kicking wasn't always the sharpest and this is something we must get better at,'' Deans said. ''It all revolves around when you kick, why you're kicking, what's the aim in mind. There's no doubt we made our job more difficult last night. Some of our kicking has been the result of anxiety.''

Ashley-Cooper knows exactly what his coach is talking about.

''We gave the South Africans too much easy ball with our general kicking. There are also some areas around the breakdown which we need to tidy up,'' he said.

''Last night, there were times where we did not execute the kick well enough.''

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