The Stormers might have to wait a little longer before lock Eben Etzebeth is back on the park, with the big man still struggling to shake off an ankle injury.
The 20-year-old injured his ankle on Springbok duty and has missed the victories over the Lions and Cheetahs, but coach Allister Coetzee doesn’t want to rush the star second row back before he is ready.
“Eben Etzebeth is getting there and I don’t want to rush him back,” Coetzee told this website. “He’s a big man, so with an ankle injury when he’s going to be jumping in the line-out I won’t select him if he isn’t 100 percent.
“He had an assessment this morning and at this stage it doesn’t look like he’ll be involved.”
There is some positive injury news for the Stormers with Brok Harris back at training this week, while all the players involved in the 13-6 came through relatively unscathed.
“Joe [Pietersen] took a minor knock to the leg, but it’s very minor and we’re fortunate that everyone from the weekend is good to go,” Coetzee confirmed.
There is also growing hope that tough No.8 Duane Vermeulen could be back for the knock-out stages of the competition, while Schalk Burger and Nick Koster remain sidelined.
“Duanne Vermeulen will be assessed again next week on Monday, and he has a good chance of being involved if we are in the semifinals,” the coach said.
“Duanne has a better chance of being available than Schalk or Nick Koster of playing in a semifinal at this stage.”
The Stormers have secured the top spot in the South African conference and assured themselves a place in the playoffs, but a home semifinal and the possibility of finishing top overall means there is still a lot to play for.
“We need to make sure we get a home semifinal and we are one point away from that, so it’s our first objective,” Coetzee explained.
“We’re in the fortunate position of knowing exactly what we need to do [to finish top] after we see what happens on Friday between the Chiefs and the Hurricanes.”
The Stormers are just one point behind the Chiefs on the joint table, so if the Waikato franchise don’t secure a bonus point win against the ‘Canes there could be an opening for the Stormers to pick up a full house and go top.
“We would like to go out and score as many tries as possible, but we’ve been playing the wet weather for a while so we are well prepared for that if it rains on Saturday,” Coetzee said.
“We always want to get out there and score four tries, or 20 tries for that matter, but you have to make sure you win the game first.”