Malherbe in line for return

    2015-02-16 19:30

    Cape Town - Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe is poised to return to action when the Stormers host the Blues at Newlands on Saturday.

    The Springbok front-rower suffered an ankle fracture in Argentina in August last year and since then has been kicking his heels on the sidelines.

    Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, speaking to the media at Monday's briefing in Bellville, said that Malherbe has returned to full training.

    "Frans is ready to play and now it's just a matter of deciding (to start or play off the bench)," said Coetzee.

    "The timing of his return is crucial."

    Another Springbok to move off the team's injury list is flanker Siya Kolisi, who has also returned to full training.

    The Stormers returned from their Loftus Versfeld triumph over the weekend injury-free although several players sat out at Monday's training session.

    "There are no casualties from the weekend.

    "Some players sat out at training because that's the way we manage them," said Coetzee.

    "We had concerns around Cheslin Kolbe's ankle but he is fine.

    "Lock Jean Kleyn has muscle tightness but that's because he is still building up to (full) match fitness.

    "Dillyn Leyds also has a tightness niggle but a day's rest will take care of that."

    As a result of injuries sustained in the recent months, the Stormers were forced to field six debutants (three off the bench) against the Bulls, and they all gave a good account of themselves.

    "It was pleasing to see how the debutants stepped up to the plate at a time when some of our experienced players were out with injury.

    "They (the debutants) produced performances which assure us as coaches that there is depth in the squad," said Coetzee.

    "It also creates a situation where there will be greater competition for places, and players returning from injury will know they will have to fight to get back into the team."

    More good news is that rising three-quarter star Kobus van Wyk, who was sidelined by a calf injury a fortnight ago, is well on the road to recovery and could come into the selection picture this weekend.

    "Kobus is training in a controlled environment for now but we'll do an assessment on Wednesday. Once we know the results, we'll (the selectors) make a call," said Coetzee.

    A surprise at training on Monday was powerhouse Kenyan winger Willy Ambaka who joined Western Province last year but has been battling with injuries ever since. He is expected to play in the Vodacom Cup team initially before he will be considered for Super Rugby selection.

    Following their upset win over the Bulls, Coetzee said his side will have to cope with "greater expectations" in the weeks that lie ahead.

    "Unlike previous seasons, we made a very impressive start and that immediately heightens expectations. But it is not a bad thing because we've always had to live with greater expectations. The challenge is to build on that performance from one week to the next."

    Coetzee said the Blues will be very different opponents (from the Bulls) who will be fielding a team full of "good steppers and good runners" like most New Zealanders.

    "We played the Bulls three times in the Currie Cup last season so we knew what to expect. We may have played the Blues only once in a season so we don't always know what we're up against," said Coetzee.

    "After one match we cannot be judged as a good or bad side but we will take confidence into the Blues match.

    "And we're playing at home which heightens expectations even more. We have a good record at Newlands, and that's something we want to preserve."

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