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Injured Stormers captain Schalk Burger is helped off the field by medical staff.

When Schalk Burger looks back on his life, the year 2012 won’t be one that he will remember for anything he did on the rugby field.

That Burger’s experience of serious rugby this season will be limited to the 20 minutes he spent on the field in the Stormers’ opening Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes back in February was confirmed by Western Province coach Allister Coetzee on Monday.

Coetzee said that the latest turn in Burger’s frustrating battle with a knee injury that just doesn’t seem to go away is that the whole rehabilitation program is going to be started again from scratch.

“We are waiting for a physician’s report but even without seeing the physician’s report I can tell you that we are writing off Schalk for the year,” said Coetzee.

“It has been a very frustrating year for Schalk. Every time he appears to make progress the pain returns. There is a possibility he may have to undergo minor surgery to clean the whole thing out again, or the other possibility is that he just does nothing for a while in the hope that the rest will enable the injury to cure itself.

“From my experience as a player I know there are times when it helps to just get away from rugby and not put the affected area under any pressure.”

When Burger was first injured the initial prognosis was that he would be back on the field in early May, but Burger’s attempts to start training again were hindered by the recurring pain and his return was put back to after the June international window.

When that didn’t happen there were hopes he might be able to return in the Currie Cup and perhaps be available for the Springbok end of year tour to Ireland, Scotland and Wales but those hopes have now been extinguished.

Coetzee said he was just hoping that the mystery of Burger’s knee pain could be solved so that the player can come back fit and refreshed to resume his role as one of the team leader’s in 2012.

Talking of team leaders, Coetzee says he has settled on a captain for the Currie Cup, but will only make an announcement when the team for Saturday’s match against the Sharks is named tomorrow.

Jean de Villiers, who replaced Burger as Stormers captain in Super Rugby, will be unavailable as he will be away leading the Springboks in The Rugby Championship. “We have been fortunate with our leaders in the past and sometimes naming a captain is just about deciding who will wear the arm-band,” said Coetzee.

One influential member of the team who should be back sooner rather than later is Duane Vermeulen, who trained with the squad yesterday and doesn’t look far away from making his return.

“Duane’s situation is different to that of Schalk,” said Coetzee. “With Duane it is just a case of him getting his fitness levels up. He is over his injury.

“There is also good news regarding Nick Koster. He is hopefully going to be ready to resume training with us next week.”

The loose-forward situation is still uncertain enough though for Coetzee to hold onto Canadian No 8 Jebb Sinclair, who will remain with the WP team for the duration of the domestic season.

Also linking up with the Province squad on a more permanent basis is flyhalf Burton Francis, and with Gary van Aswegen fit again and Demitri Catrikilis and Curt Coleman also in the mix, Coetzee has plenty of options for No 10 even with Peter Grant unavailable. – Cape Argus

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