Cape Town - Post-tour medical tests have revealed that Stormers mainstays Andries Bekker and Frans Malherbe have suffered long-term injuries, according to head coach Allister Coetzee.
The injuries, which are likely to rule both Bekker and Malherbe out for the rest of the Super Rugby season, came to light when the players were sent for medicals upon their return from the Stormers' tour of Australasia.
Prop Malherbe - who was a member of the expanded Springbok squad last season Ä will undergo an operation on Wednesday, to repair torn ligaments in his ankle and is expected to be out of action for at least 10 weeks.
Bekker, meanwhile, has picked up a new back injury and seems unlikely to play for the Stormers again, as he jets off to play in Japan at the end of the Super Rugby campaign.
“This was one of the most difficult tours I've ever experienced,” Coetzee said on Tuesday.
“The challenges we faced as a team had pushed us to the edge (of disaster).
“What made it so difficult was that we lost matches in the last five minutes of the game. It was tough to absorb...”
The tour had thrown up a number of injuries which have sidelined the likes of hooker Deon Fourie (ribs), prop Pat Cilliers (ankle) and centre Juan de Jongh (finger).
The Stormers returned from their worst Australasia tour in years, after losing three of their four matches, and given the injury nightmare, Coetzee believed it was vital for the Cape side to return to winning ways against the Reds at Newlands on Saturday.
“I have not been able to put my finger on it but losing, under any circumstances, is never easy.
“It's the first time in many years that we've lost three matches on the trot, and this week we're up against one of the best sides in the competition.
“Whatever our problems are, the main thing is that we return to winning ways to help rebuild the confidence in the side.
“The injuries have taken a massive impact, but it is important for the new players that we start winning again so that they can play with confidence.” - Sapa