Stormers

Burger injury could be costly to Stormers

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The untimely loss of Schalk Burger is the latest injury which conspires to derail the Stormers’ promising 2008 Super 14 campaign.


When the 2004 IRB Player of the Year hobbled off with torn knee ligaments in the 55th minute of his side’s fixture against New Zealand’s Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday, one could hardly imagine that rugby’s ultimate combat exponent would be lost to the Stormers for the rest of the season.


“Yes, he’s out for the (Super 14) season,” Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus said.

 

“Six weeks, or so. He won’t play Super 14 again this year. It’s a terrible blow.”

Burger has been a tower of strength on the field, with his powerful tearaway runs and tenacious tackling will be hugely missed by the Stormers who are looking more and more like Super 14 play-off contenders.


But Erasmus managed a smile when he summed up life after Burger at the Stormers.”At least he gave us a trial run when he copped a few yellow cards this season. He was also banned for a while, so we’ve had to do without him in the past.”


Burger’s stand-out performances for the Stormers have often drawn the comment that he is worth two or three players on the field, and his contributions were all the more telling as he readily grasped the nuances of the experimental law variations.


Erasmus will have a few options, even though he may have to move Luke Watson, who is has done extremely well in his new No 8 role, to the side of the scrum.


The eighthman’s jersey could go to the promising Robbie Diack, who caught the eye of the Irish rugby media over the weekend after he was named as a new signing for the Northern Ireland outfit Ulster, along with Sharks and Springbok prop BJ Botha.


It has been reported that former Stormers coach Alan Solomons praised Ulster’s scoop.


“Robbie is an excellent prospect,” said Solomons.


“He is a big, strong boy and a good ball carrier and I think he has the potential to do well with Ulster in the back row.”


Lately, Diack has been on the bench as cover for the Stormers loosies but Erasmus said that Pieter Myburgh will be drawn from the Western Province Vodacom Cup ranks in Burger’s absence.


“Pieter Myburgh will come into the mix,” said Erasmus.


“Once we’ve looked at the injuries, we’ll decide on the selection for the Brumbies match next week. We’ll also have to consider the players’ fatigue at this time of the season.”


Burger’s injury was not the only one to cripple the Stormers’ drive for four tries and the subsequent bonus point at Newlands on Saturday.


Former All Black flyhalf Tony Brown, who made his starting debut for the Stormers on Saturday, was forced to retire from the action in the 27th minute of the first half.


“Brown suffered a rib injury and we are waiting on the xrays to see what damage has been done,” said Erasmus.


“It could be cartilage or broken ribs, but we’re hoping that it might only be slight cartilage injury.” The Stormers are not blessed with depth of quality in the No 10 department, although their Vodacom Cup pivot Isma-eel Dollie has had a few excellent displays this season.


In the absence of Brown, Erasmus may decide to use regular fullback Conrad Jantjes as back-up for in-form Peter Grant. As a long shot, there is also a chance that the versatile utility back Joe Pietersen could be considered as a reserve flyhalf.


The injuries to Burger and Brown comes hot on the heels of last week’s crippling blows that have robbed the Stormers of the services of prop JD Moller and wing Tonderai Chavhanga in the final rounds of the 2008 Super 14 competition.


“It’s sad, but it’s something that a coach has to live with,” said Erasmus.


“Other coaches have also had to put up with this experience, but I’m confident that the replacements will produce.


“The players who haven’t been regulars are threatening the ones in the team and the subs are stepping up their game whenever they get a chance to play.”


Stormers’ skipper Jean de Villiers showed no signs of discomfort on Saturday after he spent a week in bed recovering from flu.


“I got a bit tired at one stage, but I was glad to come through the 80 minutes,” said De Villiers, who expressed his disappointment about the side’s inability to score four tries and a bonus point.


“We lost a lot of possesion in contact situations, and then losing players through injury had a major impact on our game.


“We put pressure on ourselves in the first half,” said De Villiers.


The Stormers’ failure to score a bonus point has seen them slot in at sixth position on the latest Super 14 standings.


It could have been so different if they had bagged a bonus point, which would have catapulted them to a lofty third slot, behind the Crusaders and the Sharks.


Sapa – Super14.com

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