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Evans could be out for a month

Monday, March 14, 2005    NZPA    

That was the worst case scenario facing coach Greg Cooper when the Highlanders left for South Africa and matches in Durban and Johannesburg.

Evans, who tore a hamstring in the 23-0 win over the Bulls at Carisbrook on Friday night, left with the team but will not play against the Sharks next weekend and is rated only a slim chance of being available for the Cats game a week later.

The Highlanders then play the Reds in Brisbane on April 1 but Cooper admitted it could be a further week before Evans is right to play again.

"We'll cross our fingers Nick will be able to play the Cats but it might be three or four weeks if the injury doesn't come right quickly," Cooper said.

"It's a decent tear and he's feeling pretty sore."

Cooper praised Evans for his superb all-round performance against the Bulls, in just his second start at first five-eighth in the Super 12.

"Nick offers different running lines to other first-fives and he really opened up the Bulls.

"I was chatting to (All Blacks assistant coach) Wayne Smith after the game and he was delighted to see Nick going so well."

With Evans unavailable, Cameron MacIntyre again steps into the breach after starting in the opening two rounds and performing creditably.

Lock-turned-flanker Hoani MacDonald missed the Highlanders flight today after the Southlander damaged ankle ligaments against the Bulls and an x-ray revealed bone fragments that may force him out for several weeks.

Wider training squad member Hale T-Pole, who had a fine game against the Bulls after being called in late to replace Craig Newby, has now officially joined the Highlanders.

Cooper is confident Newby (neck) will be fit to play the Sharks next Sunday morning (NZ time), with either T-Pole or Colin Bourke likely to take MacDonald's place on the blindside.