Cats quiver under injury cloud

Conrad Jantjes is a definite non-starter, and Ashwin Willemse has been practically ruled out of the Cats’ Super 14 opener with the Stormers.

Willemse, who suffered a minor twitch in his hamstring during the pre-season warm-up against the Sharks, seems set to have his year-long stint on the sidelines prolonged for a week.

“We’ll make a final call on Ashwin tomorrow,” coach Frans Ludeke told keo.co.za. “But at this stage it’s very unlikely that he will start. The injury is not serious, but if he plays and pulls the hamstring then he’ll out for a while again, and obviously we don’t want to risk that.

“Let me make something clear, though, the only reason we will leave Ashwin out is if he’s not fit. He tried to run on Monday and couldn’t, so it’s safe to say it’s not looking very good.”

The prognosis on Jantjes remains worrying. Despite positive noises from both Jantjes and Ludeke earlier last week, he has been ruled out of the fixture and at this stage there is little certainty on how long the recalled Bok will be out for.

“Conrad’s definitely not going to make it. I don’t know how long he’s going to be out for, but we will take it week for week.”

Jantjes’ enforced absence means that Earl Rose will be handed jersey 15 for his Cats debut, ironically against the franchise he spurned.

“I chatted to Earl earlier and asked him what he’s expecting from the Stormers, and he said he knows he will get quite a few high balls, so we’re preparing very intensively for that strategy. We know he’ll get tested, but I back him to stand up to whatever is thrown at him.”

The Stormers, in contrast, welcomed the news that captain De Wet Barry had recovered sufficiently to start on Saturday. Ludeke contends, however, that this is no surprise.

“This doesn’t change much for us. De Wet is a tough customer, and I always knew he would make it. We’ve prepared for a side with him in it.”

Ludeke announces his side tomorrow.