Stormers stalwart Schalk Burger is a doubt for this weekend’s Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs after he injured his ankle against the Bulls at at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday.
Burger, along with Pieter-Steph du Toit, was one of the few shining lights in the Stormers’ losing cause against the Bulls in Pretoria, which the home side took 17-13, elevating them to the top of the Africa 1 Conference at the expense of the Cape franchise.
The battle-hardened Bok loose forward hurt his ankle early in the second half but defiantly insisted on playing on and got his foot hastily strapped up before he shuffled back into the thick of things.
His heroics may have come at a price, as he was spotted walking around on crutches with a heavily strapped ankle at the Western Province High Performance Centre, according to reports.
Stormers assistant coach Russell Winter said on Monday that they would have more news on the extent of Burger’s injury by the end of Tuesday, but there has been no word out of the Stormers camp as yet.
“The medical team will have to work hard on his ankle to have him ready for the weekend,” said Winter, opting for a considerably optimistic approach.
In the likely absence of Burger, the Stormers will have to draw on the talents of Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi and Sikhumbuzo Notshe to produce the goods against the Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday. Hardman Rynhardt Elstadt also provides cover at flank, as well as in the second row.
The grunt of the forward pack will be especially lifted by the return to fitness of Eben Etzebeth, who enjoyed a good half of rugby against the Bulls before being substituted in what appears to have been more of a cautionary measure.
According to Winter, it was part of the plan to carefully manage the Bok lock’s return and give him 40 minutes on the park. “As you know Eben had come back from an injury so it was always going to be a medical call with him,” he said.
In more positive news for the Stormers there are a number of players returning from injury, chief among them flyhalf Robert du Preez, lock Jean Kleyn and tighthead prop Wilco Louw, with centre Jaco Taute also waiting in the wings.
The Round 14 clash against the Cheetahs presents an opportunity for the Stormers to regain their lead in the Africa 1 Conference, so the instructions from the coaching box will definitely be to win at all costs.
Victory for the Stormers will also halt the dip in form that has seen them play to a draw and two narrow losses in their last three outings.
The Bulls will face a much tougher prospect in the high-flying Lions who, despite losing the services of flyhalf Elton Jantjies to injury, will mount a great enough challenge that could just see the Johannesburg side doing the Stormers a favour.