Some good news, tempered with some bad news…
Juan de Jongh returns to the fold this week in preparation for the Stormers game against the Sharks, but the initial assessment of Schalk Burger’s injury was further compounded by news now that Schalk Burger, their mercurial captain and one-man wrecking machine, will be out for at least 6 weeks if not more, with damaged medial knee ligaments.
Andries Bekker and Jean de Villiers have some injury niggles, Rynhardt Elstadt is on his way back… and Peter Grant joins the Stormers this week from Japan.
Players expected back:
The Stormers have been given a boost with the news that centre Juan de Jongh is fit to face the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.
The Stormers’ head coach Allister Coetzee announced on Monday that centre De Jongh, who has had a long lay-off due to injury, will be included in the match-day squad of 22 players. But he did not specify if he would be in the run-on XV.
“Juan has been cleared to play and he’s excited about returning to the game,” said Coetzee. “He will be considered for the starting line-up and since he’s a Springbok he has lots to offer.
“Bryan Habana might have wanted another outing or two at outside centre but we’ll do what’s best for the Stormers.”
Habana played in the midfield in De Jongh’s absence.
There is still a measure of uncertainty that the Stormers’ enforcer Rynhardt Elstadt will play and tests will continue this week before Coetzee makes a call on his availability for the Sharks clash.
“We’re just looking to see how he’s going in contact situations and in the light sessions he’s done okay,” said Coetzee.
“The important thing is that we manage players properly. It’s going to be a tough encounter and we’ll see how he goes in training this week.”
Flyhalf Peter Grant left Japan on Monday morning after his stint with the the Kobe Steelers came to an end, and he will report for training on Wednesday.
Coetzee said he was pleased with the performance of the Stormers’ rookies against Hurricanes at Newlands over the weekend.
“I asked the young players to swim and I’m pleased to say they coped well,” said Coetzee.
“They are not there yet but I’m looking for a big improvement with every outing. It won’t be easy to play Super Rugby against experienced players and they know they still have a way to go before they’re a final product.”
Springboks Andries Bekker (lock) and Jean de Villiers (centre) have injury niggles after the weekend match and were rested from training on Monday.
Both players will be available for selection this week.
Coetzee said the target on Saturday will be to improve on the side’s match winning performance against the Hurricanes.
“On Saturday it will be all about showing allround improvement,” said Coetzee.
“I wasn’t happy with the way we managed to get out of our half because I felt that we should have been more clinical. Our finishing wasn’t what it should have been and that cost us a few tries.
The Stormers were dealt a cruel blow on Monday when it was revealed that captain Schalk Burger would be sidelined for longer than expected.
Burger damaged medial knee ligaments in Saturday’s 39-26 Super Rugby win over the Hurricanes and will miss at least the next six of action. Maybe more.
The Stormers loose forward was taken from the field in agony against the Hurricanes and visited a knee specialist on Monday.
Coach Allister Coetzee, who initially suggested Burger would be back in four to six weeks, told a media gathering on Monday that no surgery would be required.
“However, we’ll treat him conservatively,” Coetzee said. “His knee will be in a brace and we think at this stage it will be at least six weeks before he sees any action again.”
It is hoped that Burger will be back on the playing field in Round Eight, when the Men from Cape Town tackle the seven-time champion Crusaders on April 14.
However, a more realistic return date is when the Stormers return from Australasia in May.