Cape Town – Coach John Dobson said he “would be surprised if Evan Roos plays for the Stormers again” this season after he was cleaned-out by fellow Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen and Ulster flank Nick Timoney in Friday night’s 35-5 defeat in Belfast.
Roos’ one-on-one battle with Vermeulen was expected to be one of the highlights of the United Rugby Championship clash at Kingspan Stadium, but it lasted only 23 minutes.
Roos, who had returned just last week against Clermont Auvergne from a two-month layoff due to a rib injury, was hurt during an incident in the 14th minute.
He had tried to steal the ball on the ground, but then Vermeulen executed a ‘croc-roll’ clean-out by wrapping his arms around Roos’ waist and rolling him away towards the Stormers’ line, and what made things worse was when Timoney also got stuck in and lifted Roos’ right leg, which was now trapped between the two players’ bodies.
The 23-year-old Stormers star could be seen screaming as he was flipped over, and he stayed down and grabbed his right knee. After receiving treatment for a few minutes on the pitch – during which Ulster scrumhalf Nathan Doak scored a try – Roos eventually returned to the action.
He lasted for about eight more minutes, but following Ulster wing Ben Moxham’s touchdown, Roos indicated to the Stormers medical staff that he couldn’t carry on playing – and now his Bok and Rugby World Cup dreams may be in tatters.
“Evan Roos got that horrible croc roll, which is a nasty injury. That’s knee ligaments, but I am just not sure about the grade or the scale yet… Evan is on crutches, and maybe we will look at that clean-out again… It’s not a trivial knee ligament injury, but I can’t tell you now (how bad it is),” Dobson said in the post-match press conference.
“I just hope it doesn’t affect any national team aspirations that he’s got this year, but I would be surprised if he plays for the Stormers again (this season).”
Evan Roos almost in tears after getting injured and being forced off against Ulster 🤕 pic.twitter.com/mQdoNTgEZB— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) January 27, 2023
Roos’ departure was just one of several injuries sustained by an already-depleted Cape outfit missing Boks such as Steven Kitshoff, Joseph Dweba, Frans Malherbe, Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse, with fullback Clayton Blommetjies and flank Junior Pokomela withdrawing on the day of the game.
Then in the first half, hooker JJ Kotze was taken off on a stretcher after colliding with lock Ben-Jason Dixon as they tried to tackle Ulster fullback Mike Lowry, flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis went off with concussion and then Roos had to go off.
It became an almost impossible task to ensure that the defence was aligned and that there was rhythm on attack as replacements Scarra Ntubeni, Ruben van Heerden and Juan de Jongh had to come on much earlier than anticipated.
Van Heerden went on at lock, with Dixon going to flank, Willie Engelbrecht to No 8 and De Jongh to inside centre, while Kade Wolhuter and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu shared the flyhalf and fullback duties.
With Vermeulen shutting down almost any Stormers attack with an inevitable breakdown steal, the Capetonians battled to get going, and Timoney’s try on the stroke of halftime put Ulster clear at 21-0.
“Junior developed headaches last night (Thursday), and he was concussed against (London Irish) – so the doctors ruled him out then,” Dobson said.
“Blomme had some infection in his groin that just came up this (Friday) morning, and by lunchtime, he couldn’t walk.
“In the match, JJ is another concussion, Jean-Luc quite a substantial concussion, and then (Roos went off).
“It’s just frustrating as I was trying to get that loose trio back together, but now Evan – that was a really nasty clean-out, and he’s going to be gone for a while unfortunately.
“We made some mistakes in that first half, and some people I’m sure will write that these are, I’m going to say, excuses.
“But the reality is that until the last 16 minutes, since the captain’s practice, we had lost number two, six, eight, 10 and 15 – that’s just extraordinary.
“It was a real patch-job, and at least we showed some fight and effort. You could see how disorganised we were defensively, in the back-field… There just wasn’t time to readjust.
“BJ (Dixon) hasn’t trained at flank, Connor (Evans) was calling the lineouts at the end, Kade was at 15… Disappointing, but well-beaten, though.
“There were wry smiles when Evan was the third guy to go off… I’ve never experienced that.
“Blomme this afternoon, we lost Junior. I’ve just never seen that before. Basically, your spine is gone after 15 minutes, I’ve never experienced that coaching-wise.
“That’s why I think we showed some fight. We did make some mistakes, but never experienced such bad luck before.”
Now the Stormers head home for Saturday’s clash against the Sharks in Durban (2pm kickoff), where Dobson said he would at least be able to call on several players who remained in Cape Town such as Neethling Fouche, Gary Porter, Deon Fourie, Hacjivah Dayimani, Paul de Wet, Manie Libbok, Dan du Plessis and the fit-again Seabelo Senatla.
Ulster 35 – Tries: Nathan Doak, Ben Moxham, Nick Timoney, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Mike Lowry. Conversions: Doak (4), John Cooney (1).
Stormers 5 – Try: Andre-Hugo Venter.