The Vodacom Stormers paid a heavy prize for their Super 14 victory over the Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday, with flank Schalk Burger ruled out for the rest of the competition due to a knee injury.
The fiery Springbok left the field in the 52nd minute of the 26-16 win and coach Rassie Erasmus made the announcement that Burger would be out for at least six weeks after the match.
Flyhalf Tony Brown also left the field with a rib injury and is in doubt for Saturday’s match at Newlands against the Brumbies.
“He will not be playing Super 14 again this year. He is out with a knee ligament injury for at least six weeks,” said Erasmus.
Brown sustained a rib injury. “He is going for a scan and it could be cartilage or broken – those are the two things it could be. We hope its cartilage.” Erasmus, however, added that there is a possibility the former All Black flyhalf could play this Saturday.
“It’s sad man. It’s the same for all coaches. We are definitely not the only team who have injuries like that, that’s why we have a squad. Pieter Myburgh will come into the mix in Schalk’s place.
“He played against the Crusaders before. When Tondi (Chavhanga) was out we had to get the next guy and when JD (Moller) was out we had to get the next guy. That happens and it’s just as bad for me as for other coaches with major injuries to key players.”
The Stormers made heavy weather of the job in the first half and the halftime score was 9-9. They could not score the four tries for a bonus point, which could be crucial in determining the four semi-final contestants later.
“Obviously we would have loved to win first and we did that. That is satisfying in one way, but we all know how we played the firs half. We all knew there would be hiccups,” explained the coach.
“With the fatigue the guys are feeling at this time of the season this was the game to rest a few guys.
“We all expected there would be a few hiccups in the first 20, 30, 40 minutes. We all said we would understand that and we just needed to get past that because there were a few guys who really needed game time. Then when Schalk got injured and Tony injured it made it tougher to regain the momentum.
“I think we really played well in the second half. We dominated territory and possession in the second half. What we couldn’t handle was the spoiling and contesting at breakdowns.
“Those little things made it tough for us to keep momentum and score tries in the end. It was a learning curve for the guys to come out in the second half and turn the game around and seal it, but we are obviously very disappointed about not getting four tries.”
Erasmus said his charges tried their utmost to get the four tries. “We definitely tried to go for four tries, but you have to win the game first. The first prize is just to win the game.
“We just didn’t handle the way they defended. They rushed a bit more and really contested at the breakdown big time. We didn’t handle that well. We would have loved to score four tires, but if we win the last three games we should be in the picture.”
The former Springbok flank said he didn’t have harsh words for the troops at halftime. “No, it was not harsh words. I just think we were not accurate in what we were doing. We were just a little off the pace.”
Erasmus singled out the cleaning out at rucks and supporting when contesting lineouts as problem areas. “I didn’t think we were playing badly, but there were just those little mistakes… one guy missing a clean, spoiling a ball, etc.
“I think we weren’t too direct in the first half. In the second half we played more direct and that got us some momentum. In the first half we just shifted the ball from side to side which suited them.”