Bekker on the mend

Allister Coetzee is confident that lineout kingpin Andries Bekker will be ready for the Stormers’ first Super Rugby clash against the Hurricanes next month.

Last July, Bekker wasn’t selected for the Springboks’ Tri-Nations squad because of an ankle injury, and was later advised by medical personnel to proceed with surgery and miss the subsequent World Cup in New Zealand.

The Stormers lock has been working hard to rehabilitate his damaged ankle, and according to the head coach of the Cape franchise, he could be ready to start against the Hurricanes.

Coetzee added that other injured players like No 8 Duane Vermeulen and lock Rynhardt Elstadt, who are both recovering from knee injuries, have also made encouraging progress.

‘All three have started running although they are yet to participate in the full-on field sessions,’ Coetzee said. ‘I’d say that at this stage they look 70% likely to play against the Hurricanes.

‘They are medically fit, but I’d like to see them getting some game time in the pre-season games, at least 40 minutes, before I consider them for the Super Rugby competition.’

Coetzee said that the four scheduled warm-up matches will allow his extended squad some good opportunities before the competition proper commences. The Stormers coach plans to ensure that each player receives 120 minutes over the four matches against Boland, the Lions, the Cheetahs and the Kings.

Presently, the squad is 47 in number, but will be trimmed to 36 at a later date. This large group of players trained at the Hermanus Primary School on Wednesday as part of five-day training camp in the coastal town.

‘I’ve been satisfied with what we’ve accomplished over the past few days,’ said Coetzee. ‘It’s been a tough conditioning phase and we are now in the transition between conditioning and technical training.’

The Stormers’ new recruits, fullback Joe Pietersen, flyhalf Burton Francis, prop Deon Carstens and wing Gerhard van den Heever, all took part in Wednesday’s session, as did several others. Boland’s Clemen Lewis and Bolla Conradie, as well as SK Walmers winger Ederies Arendse have impressed Coetzee with their commitment and work rate.

The Stormers’ management is yet to decide whether the Boland pair will represent their home union or the Stormers when the first warm-up is staged in Wellington next week. Coetzee added that Arendse’s assessment is ongoing, and that he may be tested in the pre-season in order to see whether he is ready to make the step up to Super Rugby.

By Jon Cardinelli, in Hermanus