Jean De Villiers and probably Cheslin Kolbe will bolster the Stormers’ backline resources for Saturday’s clash against the Lions, but Schalk Burger is unlikely to play.
De Villiers was rested for the Cape side’s 22-11 defeat to the Waratahs on April 5, while he also had a sore shoulder and cyst on his knee.
But while he didn’t take an active part in yesterday’s afternoon training session in Bellville, coach Allister Coetzee said that the Springbok and Stormers captain would be back.
Coetzee had said after the Waratahs game that all of De Villiers, Burger, Tiaan Liebenberg, Scarra Ntubeni and Pat Cilliers would return from injury to take on the Lions, but the two hookers haven’t made it yet, and are only expected back for the clash against the Highlanders in two weeks’ time.
Cilliers is over his injury, and so too is young lock Jurie van Vuuren. But the Stormers will be missing another lock as Tazz Fuzani was injured in the WP Vodacom Cup game and will be out for a week or two.
Coetzee said that Burger was at “70 percent” at the moment following a fitness test in the morning on his quad muscle tear, and a final decision on him would be made today.
But the Cape Times understands that the Springbok loose forward has very little chance of playing. Burger was not present at the afternoon session yesterday, and may even be in doubt for the Cheetahs game next week as well.
Kolbe has been out with a knee injury since December, and was initially not going to be ready for the Lions game, where he could make his Super Rugby debut. He ran without discomfort during practice.
“We will see with Cheslin tomorrow, but he’s looking good and is training out there,” Coetzee said. “With him, the thing is just the confidence that he needs in the contact situation. Otherwise medically, he’s fine.
“I have to manage him, bring him on off the bench. Same like Jaco Taute, until he gets the confidence back. It was a big injury with Jaco, like Connie Jantjes, it takes them a couple of months to get back to full pace. I’m aware of Devon (Williams, in-form WP Vodacom Cup wing). He is playing very well and has scored some wonderful tries. We have discussed Devon.”
There will be another reshuffle in the backline, though, as Kobus van Wyk – who scored against the Waratahs – is out with a groin problem he sustained in that game. With Kolbe not quite ready to start, Coetzee said Damian de Allende will shift out wide from centre.
“That’s 100 percent a possibility. You speak about your best players, and Damian would be in that category. He’s had five starts at 12, and by no means am I taking opportunities away from him at 14. You can always use his skills off the wing too,” the coach said.
The Stormers remained at the bottom of the log on just six points after seven matches following their bye, but even in the South African conference, they are falling behind the second-placed Bulls, who are 12 points ahead of the Cape side. The Sharks top the overall log on 27.
Yet Coetzee says that with nine games left, his team have not given up hope of clinching a playoff spot at the end of the season. “The big thing was where the players were mentally, and they all enjoyed the break and there was energy, and that is a big positive for me. If I had a team here without energy and they were not keen with the big plan we have, then I would’ve been worried,” he said.
“It’s a mental thing, not physical. It’s the challenge we’ve put out there for ourselves as a group – getting those problems right, and they were up for the challenge. How do we utilise turnover ball? You have to see it and hear it and do it.
“My message in a nutshell is one of responsibility and accountability. And whatever you do, is it good enough to be a Stormer? Is it good enough to win games?
“The focus is still to sneak into the playoffs, and there is still a realistic chance. But that is easier said than done. There is still a steep climb, but we will be climbing.”
(All games SA times)
Wellington: Hurricanes vs Blues (9.35am), Melbourne: Rebels vs Western Force (11.40am).
Hamilton: Chiefs vs Crusaders (9.35am), Sydney: Waratahs vs Bulls (11.40am), Durban: Sharks vs Cheetahs (3pm), Newlands: Stormers vs Lions (5.05pm).
P W D L F A B P
Sharks 7 6 0 1 206 113 3 27
Brumbies 8 6 0 2 199 161 1 25
Chiefs 7 4 2 1 189 160 4 24
Force 7 5 0 2 176 166 2 22
Waratahs 7 4 0 3 178 133 4 20
H’landers 7 4 0 3 184 184 3 19
C’saders 7 4 0 3 179 152 2 18
Bulls 8 3 1 4 185 190 4 18
Lions 8 4 0 4 176 201 0 16
H’canes 7 3 0 4 193 183 4 16
Blues 7 3 0 4 193 198 4 16
Reds 8 3 0 5 186 212 4 16
Rebels 7 2 0 5 147 182 4 12
Cheetahs 8 1 1 6 213 303 3 9
Stormers 7 1 0 6 105 171 2 6 - Cape Times