Springbok Eben Etzebeth was running at full tilt at the Stormers’ training session in Bellville on Thursday, and is fit to lock the side’s vulnerable scrum in their Super Rugby semi-final at Newlands next week.
“Eben is 100% fit and he’s been match ready for a week now,” said the franchise’s coach Allister Coetzee.
Etzebeth, one of the finds of the 2012 Super Rugby season, was laid low by an ankle injury which kept him out of the game for several weeks.
More good news from the Stormers camp is that loose forward Duane Vermeulen resumed training after a knee injury which had him sidelined for the past two months.
However, he is not ready to participate in full contact sessions yet.
“It is a positive step for the Stormers that Duane joined us for training,” Coetzee said.
“We’ll have to watch his progress very carefully, and have to test him in situations at training to make sure he’s ready to play a match.” Coetzee saw Vermeulen playing an integral role next weekend.
“There is no doubt that Duane can play a vital role for us,” Coetzee said.
“If he is ready to play, it’s more likely that we’ll give him a run in the starting XV rather than bring him on as a substitute.
“It’s easier to pull him off, if there’s problem, than find out he’s battling if he comes on as a substitute.” Coetzee said flank Schalk Burger is responding well to treatment for his knee injury, and that he is being tested on a daily basis.
“Schalk is not ready to join in team training but he’s being tested all the time,” he said.
Several players such as Peter Grant (flyhalf), Rynhardt Elstadt (flank) and Gio Aplon (wing) were notable absentees at training.
“Peter took a bump to his quadriceps muscle and we have to make sure that there’s no swelling before he starts training again,” said Coetzee.
“Gio and Rynhardt both need a break to keep them off their legs.
“Gio didn’t suffer concussion in the last match and the fact that he was wearing protective head gear helped a lot. He is fully recovered.
“Gary van Aswegen also returned to training and we’re pleased to have him back.” Coetzee said that it was a mistake to take a week’s rest last season after the Stormers had reached the 2011 semi-finals.
“We didn’t take a week off this time and will do the bulk of our training this week instead of waiting for Monday and the days ahead of the match,” he said.
“This week it is all about focusing on ourselves and making sure that we are fully in sync with what we want to do.
“We want to play to our strengths rather than make a mistake of changing the way we are used to playing.”