Cape Town - Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen is set to captain the Stormers in Saturday’s Super Rugby warm-up against the Cheetahs as Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers and Deon Fourie will miss the Bloemfontein game.
The trio all have minor injuries, and it is believed that Vermeulen, who was appointed the WP Currie Cup captain in 2011 but was injured for most of the competition, will lead the Stormers out on to Free State Stadium.
Burger (calf), De Villiers (neck) and Fourie (quad) sat on the sidelines of Monday’s practice in sweltering heat in Bellville, with Siya Kolisi another absentee as he is suffering from tonsillitis. Robust forward Rynhardt Elstadt also tweaked his hamstring in training last week, and has not yet recovered.
“Schalk had one session this morning, and it’s just a tight calf at the moment. Jean had a cyst on his neck removed, and it still has one or two stitches in, so it’s not necessary to rush him back,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said after practice.
“Deon had quite a severe knock to his quad, and he has a haematoma. It’s precautionary not to play Deon this weekend, due to the hooker situation.
“I am really confident that they will all be ready to play next week, and they have to. We need them to get some gametime before the Bulls game. Obviously we might have an exception here and there, but I would like to see that the 22 against the Bulls (on February 22) have had some gametime.”
One of those exceptions will have to be at flyhalf, where both Elton Jantjies (family bereavement) and Peter Grant (Japan) are unavailable at the moment. The Stormers flew their flag at half-mast in Bellville yesterday in support of Jantjies, whose father passed away at the weekend following a bee sting.
Kurt Coleman was at flyhalf in the main team on Monday, with Gary van Aswegen not yet 100% ready. “It is a very sad tragedy that happened, and the Stormers flag is flying at half-mast today. It impacts on the team, obviously. We can just give our support to the family, and once everything is over and done, and his dad is laid to rest, we will assess how he feels. And when he is ready to come back, he is ready to come back,” Coetzee said of Jantjies.
“But there is nothing from my side in terms of when he would like to (return) - that is the last thing on my mind. It is important to give him all the support that we can. He understands and was quite brave yesterday and on Saturday, so he understands what is needed - to support at home first.
“Peter Grant’s team is still playing knockouts, and my philosophy is to make do with what we have here. I have Kurt Coleman running there, and Gary van Aswegen coming back. We also ran Louis Schreuder at 10, and Dewaldt Duvenage can also fill in there.”
Jantjies’s agent, James Adams, told the Cape Times this week that the Springbok pivot is likely to be out of rugby for at least two weeks, meaning he will also sit out the second warm-up match against Boland at the Cape Town Stadium next Saturday.
A final call on Kolisi will be made today, with Nizaam Carr set to fill the No 6 jersey should Kolisi not be fit. Carr ran alongside Vermeulen and Don Armand in the loose trio on Monday, with Michael Rhodes among the reserves, along with Bok prop Pat Cilliers, who may miss out to Frans Malherbe at tighthead prop.
But new fullback Jaco Taute appears to have won the race for the No 15 jersey ahead of Joe Pietersen, with big WP midfielder Damian de Allende joining Juan de Jongh at centre in De Villiers’s absence.
Lions hooker Martin Bezuidenhout took part in his first Stormers practice yesterday and impressed Coetzee. He will start against the Cheetahs in the absence of Fourie, Tiaan Liebenberg and Scarra Ntubeni, with WP junior Stephan Coetzee on the bench.
“Martin has settled in well,” the coach said. “He’s got what we are looking for at the Stormers - he has a tremendous work-rate, and just looking at the way he trained with the set-pieces this morning, I’m very pleased with Martin.
“And he has played a game already (for the Lions) this season. Guys who have played are just a bit sharper and react better to the breakdown.”