Cronulla second-rowers Scott Sorensen and Kurt Capewell – who is on the comeback trail from a ruptured testicle – are set to job-share to fill the huge hole left by Wade Graham against Penrith on Friday night.
Capewell sat out the loss to the Roosters last weekend after suffering the painful injury a week earlier when he collected an accidental knee from Matt Frawley but has been listed to return via the bench in the elimination semi-final against Penrith at Allianz Stadium. Journeyman Sorensen has been elevated to the run-on side.
Both men told NRL.com they were ready to take whatever chance was presented to them as the team presses for a berth in the final four of the Telstra Premiership following the loss of Graham to an ACL injury.
After playing three games for an injury- and suspension-ravaged Cronulla at the end of 2014 and two games for Canberra in 2017 after a few seasons plugging away in the Intrust Super Premiership, 2018 has been a breakout year for Sorensen.
Sharks v Panthers - Semi-Final
All five NRL games prior to this year were off the bench and ended in losses. This year the 25-year-old has recorded his first win (followed by nine more), his first run-on start and his first NRL finals appearance.
"I guess there has been a little bit luck there with a few injuries but it was really important for me to grab my opportunity when it came," Sorensen said.
"I'm 25 now. It's all about opportunity and making the most of it.
"If you told me that [I'd be starting in a semi-final] in the pre-season this year I wouldn't believe you to be honest. I'm pinching myself but I also believe I'm capable of playing NRL."
Capewell had internal stitches to repair his painful injury, which resulted in significant swelling and discomfort. The good news is there should be no long-term damage but in the short term, Capewell will have to wear a protective guard if he is to take the field against the Panthers.
"It happened as I was taking a hit-up. As I stepped my leg slipped out and [Matt Frawley's] leg went straight through the middle and clean bowled me.
"After that there was about 10 minutes to go so I finished off the game. By the time I got in the showers I felt pretty crook. When I got home I knew something was wrong just from the sheer size of them.
"Touch wood there's no [long term effects]. The doctor said it turned out fine, I was pretty lucky.
"I feel good, I've got up 'til captain's run to make sure I'm right but at this stage I'm right. I had surgery last Monday. I've pretty much done nothing since then to try and get them right. Running makes it a bit tough. I ran [Monday] and Tuesday. Hopefully, with the right protective equipment, I'll be able to play."
Skipper Paul Gallen said while Graham was a big loss, it wouldn't be as much of a problem as some people expected.
"I don't think it's going to be as big an issue as people are carrying on about," Gallen said.
"He's started 18 games for us but he's only finished 11, that's less than half the season. We've managed to go well without him.
"He's a big loss, he's a major part of our team and co-captain but I think we've proven this year we can win when he's not there. Whoever Flanno puts there... they'll do the job."
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