CAPE TOWN – Injuries shouldn’t be too big a factor for the Stormers against the Sunwolves this weekend.
That’s what tighthead prop Wilco Louw believes as the team prepare to go into their second-last Super Rugby pool game on Saturday as the intense run to the playoffs gets even hotter.
Both Eben Etzebeth and Cobus Wiese were added to the Stormers’ injury list during their loss to the Lions last weekend, a result which enabled the Johannesburg team to leapfrog both the Stormers and Sharks in the South African conference.
Captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kobus van Dyk are already on the sidelines, and it’s an injury wave that’s come at the worst possible time.
It is suspected that Etzebeth broke his hand, while Kolisi’s knee injury will keep him out for six weeks.
But it’s part of the game and not something the Stormers should allow themselves to be restricted by, the Springbok front-rower said yesterday.
“I think it was a bit of a disruption, but it’s behind us now. That’s the game...there are going to be injuries, there can be injuries this week, there can be injuries next week. It is part of the game. We just have to adapt,” he said.
The Stormers’ performance against the Lions was not one any team vying for a wildcard spot would be proud of.
They were poor in defence and at times made it just too easy for the hosts when it came to turnovers.
The scrum is another area that should go in for repairs this week.
For Louw, the set-piece will of course be particularly important against the Japanese outfit.
“Every game is important. We disappointed ourselves a bit this past weekend, but we’re moving forward and we know the Sunwolves are a good team.
“They have a good scrum and good attack, they’ve also been doing well this season, so it’s going to be a good one. We pride ourselves on our scrum and we couldn’t be proud of our latest performance, so we need to fix it.
“We had reasonable attack but I think our defence was a bit of a let-down. So we need to get it right this week, get off the line quicker and make some dominant tackles.”
While Louw was right in saying injuries are part of the game of rugby, the Stormers’ series of injury blows can hurt them. They can’t afford to make things any harder for themselves by not getting the basics right.
They can still make the play-offs, but two victories will be key, while they’ll also have to hope other results go their way.
The Stormers are bottom of the South African conference on 30 points, while the Sharks (30 - but superior point difference) and the Bulls (33) will also be aiming to fight hard. The Lions are second (35), with the Jaguares leading (41).
In terms of motivation, the Stormers are all in, according to Louw.
“We can definitely still make it. We don’t doubt that at all. The next two games are crucial. We don’t play rugby to lose, we play to win..
“The Highveld hits the lungs, so we’re looking forward to being back at home.”@WynonaLouw