Schalk hopeful for January return

Schalk Burger has been training with the Vodacom Stormers but will only be able to take contact in the new year.

The influential flanker suffered a career-threatening neck injury earlier this year and has endured a lengthy layoff after surgery. Reports on the Stormers website indicate that he may return for the pre-season friendlies ahead of the Vodacom Super 14 in January.

“We are very confident that he will be ready for the start of the Super 14,” said Greg Hechter, the team’s fitness and conditioning expert. “He will be seeing a specialist in another week or two and we will make sure he is happy.

“At this stage it seems he will be cleared to play in January, which will give us a month and two friendly games to get him confident.”

It was initially feared that he may never play again because of the nature of the injury, but Hechter has seen a vast improvement and if all goes well, he will tackle the Vodacom Bulls on 13 January for the first practice match. The Stormers then play Boland on 20 January and the Cheetahs on 3 February.

More good news is that recovering players who were ruled out of the recent domestic competition are likely to make a full return in these friendlies and obtain valuable game time.

“The way things look at this stage all the injured guys we’ve lost in the Currie Cup, such as Tonderai Chavhanga, Schalk Brits and Peter Grant, should be fit for the start of the Super 14 barring injuries from now on.

“Their rehabilitation is going really well. The same goes for Conrad Jantjes, who came from the Lions after a groin operation. His rehab program is going well and he is also joining the squad on Monday.”

The squad will also be boosted with the arrival of the Springboks next week after their final game against the World XV.

“Jean de Villiers will get an extra two weeks off before joining us for the training camp in George from 15 to 20 December. We will see how guys like Eddie [Andrews], De Wet [Barry], Selborne [Boome] and Gerrie [Britz] are, but by all accounts they have also been working hard,” said Hechter.

The Stormers have, however, suffered a slight setback with hospitalisation of scrumhalf Paul Delport, who has contracted a viral infection. He is currently in a stable condition after undergoing blood tests and will obtain a final diagnosis in the next few days.