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Robbie Fleck © BackPagePix

Flu plays havoc with Stormers

The DHL Stormers have arrived home after a tough tour ready to face one of their most important weeks of the season only to find that flu has cut a swathe through the team and is playing havoc with their planning.

The Stormers face the Blues at Newlands on Saturday in a game they have targeted as critical for a win if they want to get their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign back on track after a tour of Australasia that saw them lose three games in three starts. However, by Tuesday afternoon they had yet to train as a team, and coach Robbie Fleck was accepting that Thursday would be the only training session before the match.

“Last week before we played the Highlanders quite a few guys were crocked by flu and now quite a few other players and management members have been linked onto that,” said Fleck at a press briefing in Bellville late on Tuesday evening.

“It has been a really strong dose of flu that has hit us. As you would probably know, Pieter-Steph du Toit passed his concussion tests last week but was then ruled out of sitting on the bench in Dunedin because of flu. Damian de Allende also had flu and so did SP Marais. Now a couple of other boys have it and are resting up in bed. It hangs around for a week so it is problematic.

“The guys pitched today for a training session and a meeting but we had to send half the management members home as well as a good few players so it was pointless doing anything.”

Asked if the cancellation of Tuesday’s planned sessions would perhaps prompt him to call out the squad on Wednesday, the usual off-day, Fleck said he would stick to the routine.

“We will leave it as is. Most of the guys will need until Thursday anyway, and we will just have to make do with a busy day on Thursday. The forwards are getting together for a session as there are enough of them fit.”

Fleck hasn’t settled on his team yet but even discounting the impact of flu he has a few selection quandaries to mull over because of injuries. One of the men who will miss the Blues game is fullback SP Marais, who is out for two weeks, and that means yet another shuffle to the back three. Dillyn Leyds has played fullback, wing, flyhalf and wing again so far this season, and now looks set to return to fullback.

“It is unfortunate for Dillyn that he has to move around a lot. SP is out for two weeks. We are hearing that Seabelo Senatla could be out for six weeks. But it is what it is. Dillyn understands the situation we are in, though it can’t be easy for him. Fortunately we have JJ Engelbrecht who can cover both centre and wing, and we have called Craig Barry back from the Cheetahs.”

Barry has been playing GuinnessPRO14 for the Cheetahs on loan but the understanding has always been that Barry would be recalled if the Stormers needed him. With former Cheetahs wing Sergeal Petersen now on the injured list and out for some time, Barry might be returning to the Cape for an extended period.

The good news for the Stormers is that flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis has had a solid enough return to training to be able to be considered for the Western Province team that will travel to Upington this weekend to face Griquas in a Supersport Challenge warm-up game.

“We will also have Jano Vermaak, Dan Kriel and Dan du Plessis all playing. We have a policy that you have to play for WP first before being considered for selection for the Stormers but we are pleased o be having so many players coming back into the system at this point,” said Fleck.

The team for the Blues game will be named on Thursday.


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