Stormers hope for Vermeulen boost

Duane Vermeulen has returned to the training pitch and there is a slim chance that he will play in the Stormers’ semi-final match at Newlands next week.

Schalk Burger and Nick Koster haven’t been cleared to return to training, and are set to miss the remainder of the Super Rugby competition. However, coach Allister Coetzee remains hopeful that their other big name loose forward will be fit for the semi-finals.

‘The news is far more positive regarding Duane,’ said Coetzee. ‘He’s back at training and hungry to play so what we need to weigh up in the next few days is whether there are any risks around bringing him back [for that match].

‘He hasn’t taken contact yet, but he is able to run. We will put him into those [contact] situations over the next few days and see how he goes. If he is able to play, I believe he could play an absolutely vital role for us.’

If Vermeulen is included in the squad for next week’s match, he will start at No 8. Coetzee praised the performance of Deon Fourie, who was Man of the Match in last week’s game against the Rebels, but admitted that Vermeulen’s physical attributes could be a terrific boost in a do-or-die match.

‘Duane provides us with an extra lineout option because of his height, and is also very good when it comes to contesting opposition lineout ball,’ said Coetzee. ‘In play-off matches set pieces are very important, so it would help to have Duane available.

‘If we are going to use him, he must start. We have no idea how long he can last [considering he hasn't played for several months]. It’s better to start him and see if he can last 30, 40 or even 60 minutes if possible.’

The Stormers will only know who their semi-final opponents are following this Saturday’s qualifying play-offs. They cannot play the Reds, so will play one of the Crusaders, Bulls or Sharks.

By Jon Cardinelli