Stormers fearing worst for Senatla after Bundee Aki howler: 'I don't know when he'll play again'

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Seabelo Senatla (Gallo)
Seabelo Senatla (Gallo)

One of the major talking points in the Stormers' 38-15 United Rugby Championship win over Connacht in Stellenbosch on Saturday came in the 62nd minute when Bundee Aki was red-carded for an offence that has dealt a potentially devastating blow to the defending champions. 

With his side 16-8 down, Aki went crashing into Seabelo Senatla at a ruck, and from the resulting turnover ball, Connacht thought they had scored a try that got them right back into the contest. 

The TMO referral, however, showed that Aki's shoulder had clattered into Senatla's head. The try was scrapped, Aki was given his marching orders, and the Stormers then turned it on to score three more tries and seal a bonus point win. 

And while that moment was defining in the context of the fixture, it looks set to have dire consequences. 

"It's done a serious injury to Senatla," Stormers coach John Dobson confirmed after the match.

While the initial concern was that Senatla could have sustained a concussion or a neck injury, Dobson confirmed that Aki's cleanout had actually injured Senatla's shoulder and pectoral muscle, given his position in the ruck.  

"I feel a bit sorry for Aki, because I know what he's trying to do. It's tough, but we can't have Senatla out for the season," he added. 

"We'll scan him tomorrow [Sunday]. Rugby is just evolving fast ... big people moving fast."

Connacht director of rugby Andy Friend, meanwhile, had no complaints over the decision. 

"There is contact to the head, so we need to protect players, bottom line. So, it's a red card," said Friend.

"My only frustration is that we had a player [Senatla] who was not supporting his own body weight, so it's an illegal act. And then we have a player who comes in, but you shouldn't hit the bloke in the head.

"The bottom line is we need to protect players, and there was contact to the head.

"It's hard enough to beat the Stormers away from home, but with 14 men, it makes it very hard."

The Stormers are next in action when they host Edinburgh at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.

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