DHL Stormers squad captain Duane Vermeulen will not be available for his team’s Vodacom Super Rugby Qualifier against the Brumbies at DHL Newlands on Saturday (kick-off 17h05).
Vermeulen was withdrawn from the DHL Stormers’ match against the Lions on June 6 at the 11th hour with a severe neck spasm, but was cleared of any serious damage after consulting a neurosurgeon early last week.
The influential Springbok No.8 has made a big improvement since sitting out the Lions match, and was also rested from this past weekend’s clash against the Sharks, but he will not be risked as the 2015 Final Series gets underway this weekend.
“Duane is improving a helluva lot, but I don’t think it’s enough for this weekend,” said DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.
“We have ruled him out for this weekend’s game, but, going forward, hopefully there’s still a great opportunity for him this season (after the big improvement he’s shown so far).”
Looking at the road ahead, Coetzee explained: “It’s just about getting Duane to be pain free and improving his range of movement. There’s already been a lot of improvement (in terms of his range), so it’s coming along nicely.
“If you look at another week or two, then who knows, but you want to be absolutely sure. You don’t want to put him back again if he gets another knock. So the decision is based on making sure that Duane will continue once he starts playing again.”
When pressed on a time-frame on Vermeulen, Coetzee added: “As soon as he’s pain-free he’ll start with his cardio sessions again, so we can see if he runs and moves without any discomfort. Obviously, then it would move into a contact situation – that’s the normal protocol.
“It could be in three days… it could be in four days… but once there’s no pain, and there’s full range (through static tests with the physiotherapist) then the next step is on the field and (then) the contact situation.
“The big thing is to make sure the player is mentally comfortable,” stressed the DHL Stormers’ boss, “that is the biggest issue, he has to get over that mental barrier.
“I wouldn’t rule him out completely for the Super Rugby Finals Series, definitely not. Duane will want to play, but we need to make sure – with the medical team (and they’re doing a fantastic job) – that the safety and wellness of the player remains our first priority.”
Nizaam Carr, who captained the DHL Stormers against the Sharks last weekend, looks like the logical replacement for Vermeulen at No.8.
“I’m pleased with Nemo (Nizaam Carr) – the way he’s come back to form,” said Coetzee. “He’s playing some good rugby again and this would be a great opportunity for him once again.
“Duane is such an imposing player and character and has such a presence in any team he plays for, it would have been great to have him in this match. But Nemo brings something different to the team, I have a helluva lot of trust in the rest of the pack.
“Duane is a natural sort of poacher of the ball as well. While we will be missing that element, Siya Kolisi has (also) stepped up and turned over a number of balls for us this season. The big thing won’t be in poaching, but in the tackle fight – making positive tackles.”
Meanwhile, in other injury news ahead of this weekend’s meeting with the Brumbies (CLICK HERE NOW to buy tickets), hooker Scarra Ntubeni (calf muscle) could be available for selection after showing good signs at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports’ state of the art indoor facilities, where the DHL Stormers trained on a wet Cape afternoon on Monday.
When asked about Ntubeni’s chances of playing, Coetzee said: “Scarra is training well and he will be considered should he pass a fitness test after running comfortably today.
“I want to see him at full tilt, with acceleration on a field tomorrow. Hopefully, weather permitting, he will be on the field and running flat out (tomorrow), changing direction and things like that. That is where the test for his calf injury will be.”
Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis looks set to slot straight back into the starting mix, having recovered very well after suffering a mild concussion against the Lions two weeks ago.
“Dim is fine – he passed his test with flying colours, he’s cleared,” said Coetzee.