Cape Town - Andries Bekker may have played his last match for the Stormers after the towering Springbok lock became the latest addition to an injury list that has gone from bad to catastrophic.
The Stormers are reeling after slumping to their first three-game slump since 2009, and the ignominy of becoming the first SA team to lose against the Rebels, who beat Allister Coetzee’s side in Melbourne last week sans Wallaby playmakers James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale.
On Saturday, the two-time SA conference champions will host the Reds, champions in 2011, at Newlands, and Coetzee confirmed that a raft of regulars were missing from a training session in Bellville on Tuesday because they are crocked.
“Andries will probably be out for six to eight weeks with a grade one tear in the discs between his vertebrae,” said the Stormers coach before naming five more players from the team’s tour-finale who have succumbed to injury.
“Frans Malherbe (ankle) will be operated on tomorrow (Wednesday), he’s torn his syndesmosis completely off. Juan de Jongh has a fractured ring finger, quite high up in the joint, and that’s a minimum of three weeks. Deon Fourie has fractured ribs, he’ll be out for two to three weeks. Pat Cilliers, it’s a grade-two ankle ligament tear, minimum six weeks, and Scarra Ntubeni has a grade two hamstring tear (suffered during the captain’s run).”
The prognosis of Bekker’s injury could see him lose the race to be fit in time for the Stormers final two league matches, against the Kings (away) and the Bulls.
And given that Coetzee’s team are in 11th place with no fewer than 12 campaigners on the injured list and a myriad of tactical questions to answer, it is highly likely that the Stormers will miss out on the play-offs for the first time since 2010.
Malherbe has been ruled out for approximately 10 weeks, which suggests his season is over too.
Meanwhile, lock De Kock Steenkamp (sternum) – along with Fourie, De Jongh and Ntubeni – is not expected back until after the June Test window.
Cilliers, Duane Vermeulen and Rynhardt Elstadt (both laid low by knee injuries) are set to return for the trip to Port Elizabeth on July 6.
The one ray of light in an otherwise gloomy press conference was the return to duty of fit-again hooker Tiaan Liebenberg.
The 31-year-old suffered an elbow injury during the round six win against the Brumbies in March and is a timely boost for a squad running low on experience.
Rookie lock Gerbrandt Grobler is on track to make his Super Rugby debut on Saturday.