THE Stormers will still be without first-choice flyhalves Peter Grant and Elton Jantjies for this weekend’s second and final pre-Super 15 warm-up game against Boland at the Cape Town Stadium.
Jantjies is still on compassionate leave following his father’s death 10 days ago while Grant’s Japanese club, Kobe Steelers, won through to the next round of the domestic championship. If they go all the way to the final, Grant will also miss the opening round of the season on February 22 against the Bulls, since the final is the same weekend.
Jantjies is set to return to camp on February 10, but he would be match-shy and it would be a risk to throw him in against the Bulls after he missed two crucial weeks in the build-up.
So Kurt Coleman, who gave an accomplished performance against the Cheetahs on Saturday, has suddenly become the leading contender to lead the line against the Bulls.
Coach Allister Coetzee was hoping to give all his top players a run this weekend, but centre Juan de Jongh has a hamstring strain suffered in the 27-26 defeat against the Cheetahs while flank Schalk Burger’s has a calf strain.
"Juan’s injury isn’t good, it’s worse than a grade-one tear," Coetzee said. "It’s a minimum of two weeks, but that’s a minimum, so I think about three weeks. He’s touch and go for the opener but I will be cautious because it’s early days."
It is particularly worrying as Burger has been out for a year after a serious knee injury in the opening game of the 2012 season. Like Jantjies, he too will go into the season-opener with no mileage on the wheels.
Fortunately Burger is a unique player in many ways and one of his positive traits is that he tends to return after long injury layoffs with little sign of having ever been away.
In 2007, after months on the sidelines following a severe neck injury, he launched himself into the first ruck he saw as if he had played the previous week. "Self-preservation" and "fear" are not concepts Burger understands.
"It’s really unfortunate for Schalla because he has trained so hard and this has put him back a few steps," Coetzee said. "But there is nothing wrong with his knee. Still, he is out for two weeks.
"After a long layoff I guess the workload put some strain on the calf, which happens when players come back from long layoffs."
Fullback Jaco Taute has flu, wing Gio Aplon a stomach bug and Michael Rhodes a slight hamstring strain, so they will not be considered this weekend. But Joe Pietersen is ready to make his first appearance of the season, so comes in for Taute.
On the positive side of the ledger, there will be appearances for hooker Deon Fourie, lock Andries Bekker, flanks Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt and centre Jean de Villiers.
Meanwhile, with Sanzar exploring the possibility of expanding the Super Rugby competition to include teams from the US and Japan in 2016, the Golden Lions might show them the viability of such a move during their two-match tour of North America in April.
Sanzar CE Greg Peters said last month they would look to grow the game in areas such as the US and Asia where they believed there were large growth opportunities.
"It is by coincidence that Sanzar want to explore that area as well, so they might be able to learn from our experience there," Lions president Kevin de Klerk said yesterday in Johannesburg. With Sapa
Burger is a unique player in many ways and tends to return after long injury layoffs with little sign of having ever been away