Cape Town - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says he is taking Eben Etzebeth's injury "day by day" as he continues preparations for the start of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Etzebeth has been ruled out for up to four months with a shoulder injury, and that means he will miss more than half of the season.
But, speaking after his side's 77-0 win over SWD Eagles in a pre-season warm-up at Outeniqua Park on Saturday, Fleck was hopeful that Etzebeth was on the right track.
"We are taking it on a week by week basis with Eben, it is the type of injury where once it reacts and the muscles and the nerves start working again it is quite a quick turnaround," Fleck said.
Unfortunately for the Stormers, Etzebeth is not the only injury concern.
"Out of our first eight games six are away from home, so we are touring after one game at home and the likes of Eben [Etzebeth] and Frans [Malherbe] are going to be missing from that tour," said Fleck.
"Jean-Luc and Dan du Plessis will still be out as well, but we are going to get them back, which is the pleasing side.
"The medical staff are working incredibly hard to get them back fit and ready, we need to get them 100% ready before we play them."
Still, the coach was satisfied with the intensity his team showed on defence and at the breakdown in their pre-season encounter with SWD.
Fleck’s charges ran in 11 converted tries, but he was particularly happy with the fact that his team managed to keep the opposition scoreless on the day.
Defence and breakdown have been a major focus for the Stormers in pre-season, with the results clear to see for everyone at what was a wet Outeniqua Park on Saturday.
"There were two things from our side that we came from this game with and we wanted to get right. One was our physicality, especially in the carrying and at the breakdown, the other one was our defensive effort," Fleck said.
"I thought the conditions were difficult, but our breakdown was outstanding on attack. Whenever we come here [George] it is always a dogfight at the breakdown, but our physicality around there was something that we can be proud of.
"Our defensive effort was good today, I thought we got off the line nicely and we created a few try-scoring opportunities through our defence.
"Those are the things that we have been focusing on in the last couple of weeks, regardless of who the opposition is we are happy with how that went."
While not every pass went to hand in the slippery conditions, Fleck pronounced himself satisfied with the intent shown fom all of the 32 Stormers that made it onto the park.
"Our skill level let us down a bit, part of that was the conditions, but we can cut down on our mistakes. The intent and the effort was there and that is what we wanted to get out of this," he said.
The pre-season clash was also a good opportunity to have a look at what some of the young talent has to offer going forward, with a number of players sticking their hand up.
"It was pretty much an U-21 pack, which shows that we are building some good depth at the moment. It was a good opportunity for these youngsters to stake a claim and I think they all did pretty well," Fleck said.
"In the last 10 or 15 minutes we brought all of those youngsters on and some of them are fresh out of school, so there are going to be some mistakes but there is obviously some real talent that is coming through."
Although there are some high-profile injuries in the Stormers squad, Fleck is confident that he has enough firepower at his disposal to make a positive start to what will be another demanding campaign.