Cape Town - Schalk Burger has only suffered a strain on his medial ligament and will be back in rugby inside the next month – maybe even in time for the Stormers’ important north/south derby against the Bulls at Loftus on March 19.
That was the good news for the Stormers on Monday as they began looking to the future after their 19-16 opening Super Rugby win against the Lions at Newlands at the weekend.
According to the message put out by the Stormers marketing people late on Monday, Burger has suffered “a knee ligament strain and there is no need to operate”.
The rehabilitation period is expected to be two to three weeks, depending on how the injury responds.
That means he could just about make the Bulls game, though the Stormers won’t be putting pressure on that to happen in this extended season which includes 16 league games before they go into a possible knock-out phase.
There were some fears that Burger might be ruled out for longer so the news would have been welcomed by the Stormers.
“Schalk has a big influence within the leadership core, but fortunately we have got to a stage now where our policy of giving players ownership of their roles and of promoting player empowerment has now started to pay off,” said coach Allister Coetzee on Monday.
“We have several players capable of leading the team, and several players who are all leaders in their own right. Apart from Jean de Villiers, who captained the team in 2009, we have given captaincy opportunities to Andries Bekker, while Peter Grant and Bryan Habana are just two other players who play strong leadership roles.”
Pieter Louw played well when he replaced Burger in the second half against the Lions, and Coetzee is confident he will do the job as a member of the starting team against the Cheetahs this coming weekend.
Nick Koster could be the man who comes in on the bench depending on the mould of loose-forward that the Stormers coaches decide they want as back-up.
The news from the Stormers camp on Monday afternoon was not completely positive. Gio Aplon was expected to make his return from injury against the Cheetahs but he was not at the afternoon training session and Coetzee said a decision still had to be made on whether Aplon would play in the next game.
“Gio was at training this morning but we are going to have to make a decision on his availability,” said Coetzee in what appeared to be a round-about way of saying that Aplon didn’t come through the morning session in completely convincing fashion.
What does appear almost certain for the Cheetahs game is that Peter Grant will start at flyhalf.
“We were very happy with what Gary van Aswegen gave us against the Lions but we would prefer to bring new players into a side that has built momentum. We weren’t good as a team on Saturday and what I would like is for us to start picking up momentum against the Cheetahs.
“Gary played well against the Lions and will have other opportunities to start. For now though the imperative is that we pick up momentum and I was happy with the way Peter Grant, who is the experienced player and a Springbok, played when he came onto the field against the Lions.”
Coetzee added that he had been happy with the performances of all the young players who had made their Super Rugby debuts in the opening game – Van Aswegen, lock Rynhardt Elstadt, wing Danie Poolman, reserve hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni and prop Frans Malherbe.
“Frans was only on for 12 minutes but he scrummed well, tackled well and carried the ball well while he was on, and even Siyabonga, in the short time he was on (as a blood replacement) imposed himself on the game.”