YOU would’ve expected Allister Coetzee to still be smiling yesterday following his team’s bonus-point win over the Highlanders, as he couldn’t stop grinning after the game.
But it was wiped entirely from his face yesterday in Bellville, as he faced up to probably the worst ever injury list to have come out of one Stormers game.
Many of the players ruled out have quite serious injuries that will keep them out for months. And just to finish it off, they have to get ready for the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.
Captain Jean de Villiers was one of the lucky ones – his shoulder injury will keep him out for just one week initially, although it could be two, so Schalk Burger will take over the captaincy.
The most serious is scrumhalf Louis Schreuder, who has a broken thumb and was operated on yesterday.
Then prop Steven Kitshoff has a medial cruciate ligament tear (MCL) in his knee, but a specialist will have a proper look at it once the swelling goes down. Coetzee said an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear has not been ruled out yet.
The MCL will keep him sidelined for at least eight weeks – with the ACL, it’s normally six months.
And it doesn’t end there. Wing Kobus van Wyk has torn a ligament in his wrist, which the coach said is a similar injury to that of Manuel Carizza.
The Argentine played his last game against the Hurricanes on February 28, so that’s more than two months ago.
Carizza is only expected back in three weeks, so Van Wyk is likely to be out for three months as well.
Young back-up lock Jurie van Vuuren “popped” a shoulder, and won’t be able to play for around eight weeks too.
Then tighthead Frans Malherbe has to pass a concussion test before he can run out at Loftus. Lock Michael Rhodes has “bumps and bruises”, but Coetzee feels that he will be able to play against the Bulls.
Even the back-up players from the Western Province Vodacom Cup side, such as centre Michael van der Spuy (broken nose) and flyhalf Gary van Aswegen (groin), were injured in the quarter-final defeat to the Pumas last week.
“Tell me, if you fracture a thumb, what do you put it down to? Fracture, a wrist, a knock to the shoulder – it pops out easily, so you have to have it done.
“Frans has concussion – last week a knock to the head against the Cheetahs, this week a cut to the mouth and knock to the head,” a bewildered Coetzee said. “Steven Kitshoff got tackled against the touchline, and that’s his knee.
“So, you can’t say these guys are suffering from malnutrition ... it’s freakish accidents, not soft-tissue injuries which you can relate to conditioning or something.
“Kobus recovered from a hip or something, now it’s a wrist. Louis has had nothing, now it’s a thumb. Jurie had a knock to the shoulder two weeks ago, and now it’s the same shoulder. I don’t understand it.”
Coetzee said he won’t be bringing in any new additions – “it depends on who is available. There’s Vodacom Cup semis, so players are tied up, so we must make-do with what we have” – while Carizza and Eben Etzebeth will be returning in a few weeks at lock.
With Schreuder out, WP Vodacom Cup scrumhalf Dylon Frylinck has been called up as the back-up to Nic Groom, so he is sure to be on the bench at Loftus on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Frylinck has done well in his few WP appearances, and has a sharp service from the base.
“Frylinck is raw, but I must say from what I have seen against the Pumas, I was pleased,” said Coetzee.
“He’s got fantastic basics, a very good pass. And he is a player with attitude, tough. He’s a Wynberg boy.”
There was a bit of good news for the coach, as prop Pat Cilliers trained yesterday and is back in contention this week, and so too is young lock Jean Kleyn.
But with so many injuries, what’s the point of turning up at Loftus?
“Last year we also had a long injury list and went to Loftus, and the guys performed (losing 25-17),” said Coetzee.
“The Bulls are growing in confidence and had a good performance, but as a player, that is the test you want.
“There is a saying that goes ‘nothing special has ever been achieved in ideal conditions’, and the conditions are certainly not ideal at this point. We still have a good team that we are going up with.”
Oliver Kebble is likely to come in for Kitshoff at No 1, but Coetzee is still weighing up his backline selection due to the absence of De Villiers and Van Wyk.
The obvious choice is to move Damian de Allende to inside centre, but that would mean having two new wings, with the best options being Cheslin Kolbe and Devon Williams.
But Coetzee suggested that he wants to retain De Allende at wing, due to the Bulls’ kicking game, an area he felt Williams had struggled to deal with against the Cheetahs.
That could mean that Peter Grant will wear the No 12 jersey.
WP youngsters Robert du Preez (utility back) and Huw Jones (centre) will train with the Stormers from today too.
“(Moving De Allende to centre) is what you would want in an ideal world, but one has got to have a close look as Kobus is out and Sailosi is also out.
“Then who do you bring in at wing, and what do you expect at Loftus? What’s coming? Then you make your selections based on that,” Coetzee said.
“Devon will definitely be in the squad.”