Stormers flank Pieter-Steph du Toit is likely to miss the rest of the domestic season, while the team will also be without captain Siya Kolisi this weekend.
Du Toit is continuing his recovery from a leg injury suffered during the Stormers’ loss to the Blues back in late February.
The injury nearly cost Du Toit his leg as the haematoma quickly developed into acute compartment syndrome.
The 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year underwent another surgery on his leg a couple of weeks ago and Stormers coach John Dobson told the media on Monday that he doesn’t expect that Du Toit will be back this year.
‘At this stage it doesn’t seem like he will play this year. And with the final on 23 January, we would do well to get him back on the field in this competition,’ Dobson said. ‘So, I am not expecting him to play in this competition. If we get him for the last two or three games, it would be great.
‘The good news is that the muscle in his leg that affects the nerve is regenerating. That was the big concern and where his career may have been in jeopardy.
‘I don’t think he will be back on the field in this calendar year. But hopefully early next year.’
The Stormers are set to travel to Pretoria to face the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday and have been boosted by the return of two Springboks in Steven Kitshoff and Scarra Ntubeni. The duo sat out last Friday’s comeback win over the Pumas due to Covid-19 protocols, but they are expected to return to training on Wednesday, making them available for selection this weekend.
However, they could potentially be facing a problem at loose forward as captain Kolisi will miss the game after injuring his hamstring against the Pumas, while the availability of his replacement and understudy Nama Xaba is also in doubt.
‘Siya’s injury is not as bad as we thought. Luckily, it is just a grade-one hamstring so he will be out for between two and three weeks,’ Dobson said.
‘Nama went for a scan at lunchtime, I don’t have the results yet. He went over on his ankle and might be out. To lose both him and Siya would be a blow.’
Dobson said that a potential replacement at openside flank would be Jaco Coetzee, who made his own return from injury off the bench against the Pumas. However, Dobson added that he is concerned over the lack of depth on the bench as his team prepares to play at altitude against a Bulls team that overpowered the Sharks at the set piece.
‘The option there would be Jaco Coetzee, who did really well when he came on against the Pumas. We know he is a guy for a big game and has a massive future,’ Dobson said.
‘We are going to have to ask a couple of our forwards to go very deep. Whether it’s through injuries or overseas opportunities, a tier of this team is not there. Guys like Wilco, Ali, Cobus Wiese and Johan du Toit. Having those guys on the bench would be significant.
‘So, we are aware that we are going to have to go to altitude and some of those big forwards are going to have to go pretty long. Especially if Nama and Siya are both out. Then you ask a guy like Jaco, who hasn’t got a lot of game time because of his injuries, to probably play a bit longer. So that will probably be one of the biggest threats in this game.’
Another major concern for the Stormers is the current growth in Covid-19 positive tests among the South African teams.
The Super Rugby Unlocked match between the Lions and Cheetahs scheduled for Ellis Park on Saturday afternoon was called off in line with Covid-19 protocols after two more Lions players – bringing the total to 11 in the squad – tested positive on match day.
‘We are very worried,’ Dobson said. ‘We had a strict and strong talk with the players today about their lives outside the high-performance centre. We can control what happens here, but can’t really control what happens outside. So we said among ourselves that we are on a level four [lockdown]. It is home, shop and no socialising.
‘Unfortunately, the Cheetahs – they may reschedule the game – may have lost two points by factors outside their control. The Lions, through Covid, may have potentially lost a home win. We want to do our best to avoid us being in that same position.
‘It is a threat to this tournament that some big game is going to come down to a Covid situation. We have got to control it as best we can. The authorities are handling it really, really well. But it is clear now that this could impact on the integrity of the competition.’
Photo: Ziyaad Douglas/Gallo Images
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