CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says they’re going to have to look for a tighthead prop “outside of the region” should Wilco Louw’s injury be a serious one.
Louw left the field in the first 10 minutes of their Super Rugby pre-season game against the Bulls (26-all draw) at Boland Stadium in Wellington on Saturday with what is suspected to be a hip flexor injury.
The Springbok front-rower was massive for the Stormers and Western Province last year, and he also justified his Springbok call-up with a number of impressive Test performances.
It would be a big blow for Fleck’s side should the 23-year-old be ruled out two weeks before their Super Rugby opener against the Jaguares at Newlands on February 17.
With Bok prop Frans Malherbe already ruled out for the first part of the Super Rugby season and Michael Kumbirai also on the sidelines with a back injury sustained last year during the Currie Cup, young prop Carlü Sadie had to stand in when Louw left the field and produced an 70-plus minute performance up front at the weekend.
“It’s not good news, I think it’s the hip flexor, but to what extent I do not know. He’ll go for scans tomorrow. It’s not the news that you want with your opener in two weeks’ time,” Fleck said.
“Whether it’s grade one or grade two when you’re talking about grade one you’re looking at up to four weeks already.”
“If Wilco’s injury is serious I think we’re going to have to look outside of our region. We’ve got a very young tighthead in Carlu Sadie, who I though was very good playing his first game at Super Rugby intensity,” he added.
“We were only planning on giving him 20 minutes today and he ended up playing 70-odd minutes, so we were very happy with him. We’ve got Neethling Fouche who’s playing for Maties in the Varsity Cup, but we’re going to have to look.”
With regards to the match - one in which the Stormers had to fight hard to keep an on-fire Bulls outfit at bay - each team scored four tries and converted three in a high-tempo game that Fleck believes was just what his side needed ahead of the new-format Super Rugby season.
“It’s exactly what we needed - a good, hard game, good tempo. But in that first half we behaved poorly at the breakdowns and we were giving away far too many penalties. They just kept coming at us and we kept conceding penalties and then they’d kick to the corner,” he said.
The Stormers were their own worst enemies in the first, but an improved, more controlled second-half outing saw them do just enough to limit the opposition’s damage. And it was an effort that Fleck was happy with.
“When we got it right on attack we got in behind them and we put them under a bit of pressure. That first was a great example of line speed from them, they came out and put our ball-carriers under pressure which is great, because that’s what we’re going to face in Super Rugby this year. I’m grateful for that because the boys now understand exactly what’s coming,” Fleck said.
“I think the guys showed good character to defend like we had to in that first half, but the second half was much better. In the second half we were a bit more direct, our discipline was better, we got our tactics right and defensively we were better.”