Stormers hit by lock injury crisis

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iol spt mar17 De Kock Steenkamp Gallo Images Super Rugby's high attrition rate has resulted in another injury-hit Stormers player returning home from the Australian tour. Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Cape Town – Super Rugby's high attrition rate has resulted in another injury-hit Stormers player returning home from the Australian tour.

Lock De Kock Steenkamp flew out from Sydney to Cape Town on Monday after a recurring groin injury forced him to abort the tour. He is the second lock, after Rynhardt Elstadt, to return home.

Just before the start of the tour, locks Manuel Carizza and Jean Kleyn were ruled out of action for five weeks. And prior to that, Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth was injured and is only expected to return in mid-May.

Lock Michael Rhodes was injured in the first tour match but has since recovered.

Steenkamp's second-row partner, Ruan Botha, also left the field injured in last week's game against the Chiefs. However, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said Botha is likely to be available for selection this week.

“It seems like the lock is the position targeted for injuries in our squad this year,” said Coetzee, speaking from Sydney on Monday.

“Touch wood, we won't have more injured locks. Thank goodness Rhodes will be back this week.

“We also have Jurie van Vuuren who flew out last week, and then (No 8) Duane Vermeulen will provide lock back-up.”

Van Vuuren is the Western Province under-21 utility forward and can play at lock and flank.

Fullback Jaco Taute, another player to leave the field in the last match, suffered a shoulder injury and has joined the injury list. Coetzee is hopeful he will recover for the final tour match in 12 days' time.

“Taute injured a shoulder and is feeling very tender and sore,” said Coetzee.

“Jean de Villiers also picked a shoulder injury but he should be fit to play the Brumbies on Saturday.

“Prop Frans Malherbe trained Monday and he looks ready to play again.”

Springbok centre Juan de Jongh had joined the tour after a five-week lay-off and would play off the bench against the Brumbies.

The two defeats on tour Ä against the Chiefs and the Crusaders Ä had not hurt the Stormers' morale, Coetzee said, and he hoped his team would learn to close out matches on a winning note.

“We are still very positive about our campaign and this week we are working hard for a big turn around.

“We had a big chance against the Crusaders and then we let it slip.

“Against the Chiefs last week we fought back for a 24-20 margin and then did not kick on. There were lessons there that hopefully we would learn from.”

He said there was a good response at training and the intensity levels were up.

“We have benefited from a two-day break because of the Friday fixture and we're ready to put our bodies on the line on Saturday.”

The injury to Taute has opened the way for Sailosi Tagicakibau to move into the starting line-up for Saturday's match.

“We are expecting a massive kicking game from the Brumbies so Sailosi's experience will help whenever we are tested at the back,” Coetzee said.

“He'll be good support for fullback Gio Aplon and his presence will help us cope. He'll also have a presence in the wider channels where the Chiefs struck so hard last week. We became erratic in our defence systems out wide last week.”

Flyhalf Peter Grant is likely to get the nod ahead of Demetri Catrakilis in this week's starting XV. – Sapa



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