Stormers coach Allister Coetzee still hasn’t given up all hope of influential No 8 Duane Vermeulen being ready to play some part in the Super Rugby semifinal at Newlands against one of the Crusaders, Sharks or Bulls on 28 July.
Vermeulen has been out with a knee injury since the Stormers’ overseas tour in April, and the initial prognosis was that he would return to action around about now. Last week Coetzee wasn’t too optimistic about Vermeulen being back for the knock-out fixtures, and was waiting for a specialist’s assessment.
That assessment was due on Monday but with the Stormers not playing this week, Coetzee is now waiting until Thursday before taking a further look at the availability of both Vermeulen and Schalk Burger.
The latter appears far more unlikely to be available than Vermeulen as he continues to struggle with discomfort in his knee, though Coetzee’s latest information on the matter, disclosed on the Stormers website, is that he has made good progress in the past week.
“Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger are both progressing well but are unlikely to be available for the semifinal. A further assessment will be made on Thursday,” said Coetzee.
The good news is that Eben Etzebeth is expected to be back in the mix next week, and his physicality will be welcomed, as whichever team the Stormers will be facing, the opponents will be a physical combination.
Coetzee says that the Stormers are in a good shape physically for this stage of the season, and compared to some sides they are, but the hole at loose-forward remains a concern. And it is because of the physicality he brings that Vermeulen, who missed last year’s semifinal because of injury, should be given until the last minute to prove his fitness.
The Stormers players have been given three days off and will reconvene at the High Performance Centre on Thursday to start their preparations for the semifinal.