No cavalry for Cape front runners

The Stormers have been dealt a double blow with news that the injured trio of Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster are unlikely to return for the play-offs and that Jebb Sinclair is ineligible for selection.

The Stormers have already lost Nizaam Carr for the rest of the season, and it could be that more experienced loose forwards like Burger, Vermeulen and Koster play no further part in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

According to coach Allister Coetzee, Vermeulen will see a knee specialist next Monday to determine his availability for a possible semi-final and final. There is a slim chance that Vermeulen will join the Cape side in the knockout stages, although Coetzee didn’t sound hopeful of Burger and Koster recovering from their own injuries to make a timely comeback.

Sinclair was recruited earlier in the season to offset the losses suffered in the loose forward department. The Stormers brought the Canadian into the mix knowing that he wouldn’t be available for the play-offs (the Sanzar law stipulates that a player needs to be signed before the 1 April cut-off to be eligible), but hoped that Burger, Vermeulen and Koster would be back in action by that point.

Last week, Coetzee said it was hoped that Sanzar would grant the Stormers special dispensation to include Sinclair in the play-offs given the Cape side’s high number of injuries in the loose forward department. However, Coetzee told keo.co.za on Monday that this request had been turned down.

What this means is that the Stormers will be without Sinclair in the play-offs, and it’s highly likely that Burger and Koster will be unavailable. If Vermeulen doesn’t receive good news from the specialist next week, he could also miss out.

This will force Coetzee to revisit the plan of starting Siya Kolisi, who is only into his first Super Rugby season, at No 8. It could be that Kolisi is shifted to the back of the scrum for the upcoming match against the Rebels, as this will allow a back row combination that will probably start in the play-offs some time to settle.

By Jon Cardinelli