Burger leads Stormers at Loftus
Cape Town - The DHL Stormers’ chances of continuing their resurgence by beating their arch-rivals from Pretoria in Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby have sustained a massive blow at the start of the build-up week.
According to the supersport.com website, it appears the Cape team’s 29-28 win over the Highlanders at Newlands last weekend came at a massive price, with regular captain Jean de Villiers heading the list of players that will have to sit out this week after sustaining injury. Fortunately Schalk Burger was not one of those to have been injured, so he will lead the side in De Villiers’ absence.
De Villiers has sustained a shoulder injury that will sideline him for just one week, which makes him a trifle fortunate in comparison to some of the other injured players who will be out much longer. As anticipated, loose head prop Steven Kitshoff has been ruled out with a medial cruciate ligament tear in his knee.
That injury will keep Kitshoff sidelined for at least eight weeks, which is basically the bulk of the rest of the season. However, an anterior cruciate ligament tear has not been ruled out, and if such an injury is confirmed, the young prop will be out of rugby for six months.
Scrumhalf Louis Schreuder has a broken thumb that was operated on during the course of Monday, while wing Kobus van Wyk has a torn ligament in his wrist. That could keep him out for three months. To cap that, Frans Malherbe, the tighthead prop who won the man of the match award against the Highlanders and scored two tries, has to pass a concussion test before he can play at Loftus.
As if that isn’t enough, the Stormers will also be without reserve lock Jurie van Vuuren, who injured his shoulder playing off the bench against the Highlanders. And on the subject of reserves, Western Province Vodacom Cup players Michael van der Spuy, who might have been a potential replacement for De Villiers, and flyhalf Gary van Aswegen were injured playing their quarterfinal against the Pumas last week.
There were no hamstring or soft tissue injuries listed among the reasons why the Stormers players are being forced to sit out, so understandably coach Allister Coetzee was at his wits end in trying to explain what can only be described as a freakish injury toll from one game.
“When you fracture a thumb, what do you put that down to? A knock to the shoulder, when your shoulder pops out, those are things that happen, and Frans has concussion. Last week he got a knock to the head against the Cheetahs, this week a cut to the mouth as well as another knock to the head,” said Coetzee.
“So you can’t say these guys are suffering from malnutrition or something, they’re all freakish accidents, and not soft tissue injuries which you can relate to conditioning or over-use. Kobus recovered from a hip injury and now it’s the wrist. Louis has had nothing, and now he has a thumb injury. Jurie had a knock to the shoulder two weeks ago, and now it’s the same shoulder. I don’t understand it.”
With Schreuder out, WP Vodacom Cup player Dylon Frylinck has been added to the squad and is sure to sit on the bench at Loftus. Two additional Vodacom Cup players, Robert du Preez (flyhalf) and Huw Jones (centre) will also train with the Stormers from Tuesday, although the replacement for De Villiers is likely to come from within the match 23 that did duty against the Highlanders.
Coetzee has suggested a preference for keeping Damian de Allende on the wing to deal with the Stormers’ kicking game so there is a possibility that Peter Grant, having already played flyhalf and fullback this season, will find himself wearing the No 12 at Loftus.
Should that be the case it won’t be anything new for Grant, who played much of his junior rugby at inside centre, and he was in fact in the midfield when Western Province scored a significant and unexpected Currie Cup win over the Blue Bulls at Loftus in 2006 so he has experience of winning in the No 12 jersey at Saturday’s venue.