Hooker Deon Fourie broke a bone in his hand in the Stormers’ pre-season warm-up fixture against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth and will be out for longer than it was initially expected.
Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee has confirmed that Fourie would be out of action for at least six weeks.
“This injury is a small one, but it effectively rules Deon out for the season if you like,” said Coetzee.
“After the operation he needs six weeks for the bone to mend and then it will be time before he can expose the hand to pressure.”
Fourie and Tiaan Liebenberg are the first-choice hookers in the squad and now Siyabonga Ntubeni will come into the frame as the second-choice No.2.
“Deon’s absence leaves us with a problem but Scara (Ntubeni) is next in line,” said Coetzee.
“He’s young and has done well in the past when we called on him, so I have confidence in him.”
Ntubeni was destined to play Vodacom Cup rugby but instead he will be in for long Super Rugby season, which ends with the final in August. Coetzee is hopeful that Fourie can make a return in June.
More bad news from the Stormers’ medical staff is that lock Rynhardt Elstad suffered a grade one ankle ligament tear in Port Elizabeth and is expected to be out for a month.
“Like Fourie, Elstad is a real concern,” said Coetzee.
“I don’t know when Elstad will be back and the medical staff is still looking at his situation. If he won’t be in time for the start of the season (February 25) I’ll have to bring in cover in the squad.”
The Stormers returned from Port Elizabeth with a number of niggles in the squad.
Fullback Joe Pietersen is nursing a hamstring injury and loose forward Nick Koster picked up a knock on the knee. Both players have taken a break from training.
First-choice players such as Dewaldt Duvenage (scrumhalf) and outside centre Juan de Jongh are still on the mend after long-term lay-offs as a result of injuries.
“Dewaldt may get to play a few minutes in the opening match,” said Coetzee.
“With Juan it will be touch and go if he gets to play in the first match. Juan is still not taking contact at training because that’s what the medical staff decided.”
The experiment of playing wing Bryan Habana at outside centre worked well and Coetzee feels that he has now secured quality cover for the squad’s No.13.
In their recent two warm-ups matches, the Stormers picked up five yellow cards collectively and the question of discipline had been addressed.
“We’ve dealt with the issues that led to the yellow cards, and it’s not something that concerns us too much,” said Coetzee.
“In some cases, we felt the cards were harsh on the players.”