Cape Town - Schalk Burger won’t be able to take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, but his absence will provide fellow loose forward Siya Kolisi with a perfect chance to stake his claim as a serious contender for the Springbok Test squad that will be named after the match.
Burger was listed as “50-50” on Monday by Coetzee, but the big blonde flank did attend the Springbok training camp in Durban over the last four days.
The South African Rugby Union said in a statement on Wednesday that Burger had “still experienced some stiffness in the neck and was withdrawn from training as a precautionary measure” by coach Heyneke Meyer.
And now it is understood that he won’t be risked by the Stormers at Kings Park, although Coetzee would’ve needed him for his leadership in particular as Jean de Villiers is out for eight weeks.
But experienced Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen has led the Cape side this year and will take over the captaincy this weekend once again.
Kolisi, who replaced Burger after halftime of last week’s 33-0 triumph over the Cheetahs, will wear the No 7 jersey and will be keen to have a big game against a powerful possible Sharks loose trio of Marcell Coetzee, Tera Mtembu and Willem Alberts to impress Meyer.
After an exciting Test debut last year against Scotland in Nelspruit, where he came on in the fourth minute as a replacement for the injured Arno Botha and won the Man of the Match award with a stirring display, Kolisi’s graph has gone downwards in 2014.
He was rewarded with a Springbok contract, but a troublesome shoulder injury first sidelined him for a few weeks and affected his form this year.
The fact that the Stormers weren’t playing well didn’t help matters, but Kolisi would’ve been disappointed to drop down the loose-forward pecking order as first Deon Fourie and then later Nizaam Carr were picked ahead of him.
Carr has been in outstanding form since and was very unlucky not to be called up by Meyer for the Bok training camp this week.
Kolisi showed glimpses of his strong ball-carrying and energetic tackling last week when he came on for Burger in the second half, and rounded off a superb team try.
The wrist injury sustained by Kobus van Wyk last week has opened up a gap in the No 14 jersey, and Samoan import Sailosi Tagicakibau is likely to be named at left wing by Coetzee this morning, with Cheslin Kolbe moving over to the right flank.
Tagicakibau only made his return from injury last week, although he looked the sharpest that he has been all season against the Cheetahs and did well to pounce on Willie le Roux’s error to score the bonus-point try at Newlands.
But he will have his hands full in marking Springbok star JP Pietersen, while Kolbe will also have to be at his best against the flying Lwazi Mvovo on the other side.
Kurt Coleman is now seemingly established as the first-choice Stormers flyhalf, and he will look to build on his classy display against Johan Goosen last week when he runs out against Frans Steyn at Kings Park.
While he showed some signs of improvement with the distances on his line-kicks in difficult conditions last week, Coleman will face a massive task in trying to outwit Steyn on attack, while also attempting to match his big kicking boot.
The Stormers will only have one training session on Friday with their full team to prepare for the Sharks clash due to the Springbok camp this week, but Coetzee doesn’t think it will affect his team too much at this late stage of the season.
“If you have systems in place, then there isn’t much that you can do in such a week, so you back what you have done. We must make sure that those players are fresh enough psychologically for such a big game,” he said.
“We must ensure that our Boks get more rest when they get back, and Thursday is our off day. So we will just have a meeting and have a full practice on Friday, and it might even be here (in Cape Town) still.”