Schalk’s return put on hold
Schalk Burger’s long-awaited return at the helm of the Stormers looks set to be put on hold, with the flanker now unlikely to play the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at Loftus on 22 February.
This weekend’s warm-up fixture at the Cape Town Stadium against Boland was supposed to be Burger’s return to the playing field after an absence of a year.
This time though it is not the knee that ruled him out for so long that is troubling him, but the calf injury that kept him from playing against the Cheetahs this past weekend.
Last week it was described as a “tight calf”, but this week it has progressed into a “calf strain”, with coach Allister Coetzee saying that his recently reappointed squad captain will definitely miss Saturday’s game against Boland.
Having on several occasions said that players who don’t play against Boland won’t be considered for the first game of the competition, that clearly makes Burger an unlikely starter for Loftus.
“Schalk has strained his calf muscle and that puts him back. He’s so keen and trained so hard to get back, and it’s just unfortunate,” said Coetzee.
“The knee is 100 percent okay, but he has just strained his calf muscle. We are looking at a minimum two-week timeframe for him to sit out. With the training, he has strained his muscle a bit, but fortunately there is no tear. Schalk has been working hard, and after a long layoff, obviously the workload just got to his calf.”
Jean de Villiers, the national captain who led the Stormers with distinction last season, is a ready-made replacement for Burger as team leader, but it looks like he might be going to Pretoria without his regular midfield partner Juan de Jongh.
The Springbok outside centre had his hamstring assessed on Monday and it confirmed that, according to Coetzee, De Jongh has a tear that is “worse than a grade one”.
De Jongh injured the hamstring against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this past weekend and is also out for a minimum of two weeks.
“It’s touch and go for the Bulls game for Juan but with an injury like that you have to be careful because you don’t want it to recur,” said Coetzee.
Even if everything goes perfectly for De Jongh in his rehabilitation he will only return to training in the week of the Bulls game so it would seem unlikely that he will be ready to play.
Coetzee has several options, including giving Damian de Allende, one of the heroes of Western Province’s Currie Cup win last season, a first start at Super Rugby level in the No 12 jersey, with De Villiers playing outside him.
De Villiers is expected back for Saturday’s game against Boland after missing last week following a minor operation.