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SCHALK BURGER is unlikely to play rugby in 2012 again.
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said at a media briefing in Bellville yesterday that Burger has stopped his rehabilitation programme with his knee injury sustained in the opening Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes in February.
“We had to stop his rehab completely, because he wasn’t going any further. It’s like hitting the roof. He saw the specialist last week, and we are waiting for the report. There’s a possibility that he might have to clean up the whole thing again, or just do nothing for a while, and then reassess from there. Maybe the pain will just subside and go away,” Coetzee said.
“I think he won’t play again this year, without looking at the report. We have to wait for it and then work out a plan of action, and once that happens and if there are no rewards, then you can look at another plan.”
And the cold, wet morning didn’t get any better for the WP mentor as loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff was ruled out of Saturday’s Currie Cup opener against the Sharks at Newlands (7.10pm kickoff) with a knee injury. “There is nothing majorly wrong with the knee, but it is not as stable as it should be,” Coetzee said. “Being a prop, we are taking all the pressure off him and letting him do some rehab this week, and hopefully by next week, he will be fine again.”
But that was the same explanation given for the likes of Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster, so one hopes that the injury to Kitshoff is not as bad. Talking about Vermeulen, the big No 8 completed fitness drills with team physiotherapist Wayne Hector, and then joined the practice midway through the session.
Fellow loose forward Nick Koster is also expected to return to training in the next two weeks from his knee injury, while Province have signed Canadian No 8 Jebb Sinclair and Burton Francis for the duration of the Currie Cup. Sinclair is likely to start against the Sharks, with Deon Fourie set to continue at openside flank and Don Armand likely to come in at No 7.
The WP captaincy is set to be shared between Fourie and Tiaan Liebenberg, who trained at hooker yesterday, with Deon Carstens and Frans Malherbe alongside him in the front row. Coetzee said that he will name his captain tomorrow.
Rynhardt Elstadt is the likely choice at No 4 lock next to De Kock Steenkamp, although Coetzee added that Elstadt did well for the Stormers at flank this year.
Francis ran at flyhalf, with Peter Grant returning to his Japanese club, while there were three other back-up No 10s in Gary van Aswegen, Demetri Catrakilis and Kurt Coleman at practice as well. With Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana at the Springboks, Marcel Brache lined up at inside centre and Gerhard van den Heever at wing.
The coach said that young club players such as locks Reniel Hugo and Hugo Kloppers, loose forwards Reuben Johannes and Yaya Hartzenberg, as well as wing Ederies Arendse would get opportunities to play for WP in the Currie Cup to build depth for the Stormers.
Coetzee said that the Currie Cup tournament would give the players an opportunity to forget about their Super Rugby disappointment. And he feels that the overall gameplan only needs a “tweak” in the Currie Cup. “It was important to get over the Super Rugby disappointment, and close that door completely behind us. Then you can open the next one, which is the Currie Cup. Compared to last year, the players were still really hurting three to four days after the semi-final this year,” he said.
“We won 14 out of 17, which says that there is not a lot wrong. So, whatever we do (with the gameplan), it will definitely not be reinventing the wheel. We will tweak one or two things, and use phase one of the Currie Cup to see if it will bring any dividends and rewards. But there is not much that needs to be changed here.
“There is a winning culture being created at Western Province and the Stormers, and we would like to continue with that. It would be very foolish to look way ahead and see how you are going to overcome this semi-final thing – that mental state of semi-finals and playoffs – we can cross that bridge when we get to that.”
It’s important to start well and get off to a winning start.”