The Stormers might be facing a “potential injury crisis”, but head coach Robbie Fleck is confident the majority of his injured “big names” will take to the field sometime during their 2018 Super Rugby campaign.
At a press conference on Friday evening Fleck gave some positive feedback with regards to the current crop of players on the injury list, with Springbok Eben Etzebeth the only casualty with a serious question mark in terms of his return date.
Fleck confirmed that flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, centre Dan du Plessis, tighthead Frans Malherbe and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak are all expected to return within the first quarter of Super Rugby.
Etzebeth’s return date, however, is still unclear.
The second-rower saw a specialist last month to further examine his back and shoulder injuries.“Eben is running strong. We’re assessing him every single day to measure his progress.”
The Stormers are of course well-acquainted with injuries, especially those ones that always seem to creep in during the pre-season. And although most of their current injuries occurred last season and are still under recovery, the Etzebeth injury is about as big a pre-season blow as they could get.
“Injuries have been a problem this year, more so than ever before. Jano Vermaak is still out and he’ll only be coming in post-March. Frans Malherbe is running and he’s still battling a neck injury, but all pain in his neck is gone and he’s starting to really progress in his training. He’ll start joining the squad in the first week of February. He’ll start off with just running and maybe single sessions. We’ll start ramping him up after that. I’m not going to put a date on that (his return), it’s a difficult injury. But hopefully we can look to bring him in in the latter part of March,” Fleck said.
“Jean-Luc is in the same boat as Frans. He had a groin operation done in the States over the Christmas period and he’s now pain free. He’s started to run. He should be on the field for single sessions in two to three weeks, but we’ll review it.”
“Dan du Plessis (shoulder injury) is also running freely without pain. He should be joining the squad within the next two months.”
“I’m pretty confident that all these players will play a part in our campaign.”
Meanwhile, Fleck also said that just like last year, the coaching staff went abroad as part of their professional development plan following the conclusion of the 2017 season -–something the Stormers coach believes was beneficial for their pre-season preparations.
“We visited Leinster, Ulster and Glasgow. We met with some high-profile coaches... Dave Rennie, Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell.”
“We discussed a couple of ideas around the game and where the game is going and we swopped a few ideas. We came back with some good information. At the end of 2016 we made the trip as well and we came back with some valuable information which we put into our pre-season efforts. There were lots of good stuff that we got from that and that we implemented."