STORMERS captain Schalk Burger and centre Juan de Jongh are both in danger of missing the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls on February 22.
De Jongh sustained a hamstring injury during the past weekend’s warm-up against the Cheetahs, and coach Allister Coetzee said yesterday that the Springbok midfielder had had a tear that is “worse than a grade one”.
Burger sat out the Cheetahs game with what was described as a tweak of a calf muscle, but it has worsened and developed into a calf strain. Both players will definitely not feature against Boland at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (2.45pm kickoff).
“Juan has done a hamstring, which is worse than a grade one. I wouldn’t want to say it’s a grade two, but it’s definitely a minimum of two weeks, which means that if the healing goes well, it could be two. But definitely, we are looking at three weeks minimum (which would include missing the Bulls game). It’s touch and go for the Bulls game, but one has to be careful with an injury like that and make sure it heals completely. You don’t want it to recur,” Coetzee said after practice in Bellville yesterday.
“Schalk has strained his calf muscle, which puts him back as well. He is so keen and trained so hard to get back, and it’s just unfortunate. The knee is 100 percent right, but he has just strained his calf muscle. We are looking at a minimum two-week timeframe as well.
“He was going to play this weekend, but last week, it was just tight. But with training, he has strained it a bit, although there is no tear. Schalk has been working hard, and after a long layoff, obviously the workload got to the calf and that.”
Having sat out training last week as well, another two weeks out would make Burger a highly unlikely starter against the Bulls. He would’ve missed both warm-up games, and only return to training in the week of the Loftus clash if his calf strain heals in two weeks’ time.
But while it is understood that Burger is keen to return and face the Bulls following his year-long layoff, it would be an unnecessary risk to play him as he wouldn’t have had any gametime in 2013.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers would then lead out the Stormers at Loftus, as he makes his return to the team this week. Coetzee confirmed that De Villiers will replace De Jongh at outside centre for the Boland clash, with youngster Damian de Allende retaining his place at No 12 after a strong display against the Cheetahs.
“With Jean back, Damian de Allende went well on Saturday and showed that in the Currie Cup as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how he combines with Jean, and they will be the guys starting this weekend. We’ve got other youngsters like Pat Howard and Berton Klaasen too. JP du Plessis is out for a couple of months as he picked up a lower-back problem that will keep him out until April,” said the coach.
There was some good news on the injury front, as apart from De Villiers, the Stormers coach will be able to call on a number of stalwarts – Andries Bekker, Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt will all play against Boland, while Nic Groom, Joe Pietersen and Brok Harris will get a run too.
Jaco Taute and Gio Aplon didn’t train yesterday as they have flu, but both should be ready for the Boland game.
Coetzee said that Bok flyhalf Elton Jantjies will return to the squad on February 10 following the death of his father, but that Peter Grant is still in Japan as his club side won their knockout match at the weekend. “I went up to the memorial service obviously, and I met with Elton. He will definitely be considered for the Bulls game,” the coach said.
“We are thinking of having a few chukkas with full contact in the week before the Bulls game week. That will give guys like Elton and others an opportunity to get match fitness.”