Growing doubt over Schalk’s future

2012-07-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The Stormers are the South African team best placed to win the Vodacom Super Rugby title this year, but their chances of doing so have sustained a mortal blow with confirmation that the chances of their big guns at loose forward being available for the playoffs are disappearing.

The SuperSport website quotes Stormers coach Allister Coetzee telling an informal press gathering at the High Performance Centre in Bellville on Monday that Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster are unlikely to be available to play in the playoffs, as had been hoped.

All three have been out for several months. Burger, who was appointed to lead the team this season, has not played since the opening 20 minutes of the first match against the Hurricanes in February.

Burger was expected to be out for just a couple of weeks because of a knee injury. But he has struggled to shake off the injury, missing his expected return during the Stormers’ overseas tour. He had his comeback put off to the first match of the last phase of the league season after the June break for the international window.

When that didn’t happen, Coetzee said Burger would be back for the playoffs.

But even then Coetzee didn’t sound confident, as he knows how troublesome the injury has been to Burger. Every time he looks like making progress, the pain returns when he tries to increase the intensity of his training.

It is feared Burger might not play again this season, and the nature of the injury is starting to introduce some concern about his future in the game. “I don’t like making predictions about when a player might be back from injury because you have seen what has happened this year,” said Coetzee.

“Every time a prognosis is made it appears something then goes wrong and it has to be pushed out.

“At the moment the chances of Schalk and Nick Koster playing a part in the Super Rugby competition look very slim.”

There is an outside chance that Vermeulen, who has been injured since leading the Stormers to victory over the champions Reds in Brisbane in the third match of the overseas tour in April, will be back for the playoffs. But even there, hope is fading when it was once thought that his readiness would be an accomplished fact.

The Stormers do have time to spare as they need just one log point from the final league game against the Rebels at Newlands to make sure they advance straight to the semi-finals, meaning they will take a bye during the first week of the knock-out phase. But they are not in a good space given that it seems their application to Sanzar to have Jebb Sinclair, the Canadian No. 8, cleared to play in the knock-outs has been turned down.

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