Star centre Juan de Jongh will miss the start of the 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby season, after being ruled out of action for at least six weeks with a knee injury.
The DHL Stormers ace suffered a knock during last weekend’s warm-up match against the Bulls in Polokwane, although his injury did not appear to be serious at first.
“Juan went off at half-time (against the Bulls) after taking a knock. It didn’t seem to be that serious… but obviously it is now,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee told the www.iamastormer.com website on Tuesday.
“As it turns out, he has a slight tear in his lateral meniscus, so he will be scoped today (Tuesday) and then we will know his fate. But I can say that Juan will be out for a minimum of six weeks.
“We’ve accepted that Juan won’t be part of our plans at the start of Super Rugby. It’s bad news for us as Juan has worked hard in the pre-season and was looking to make a big impact this year from the start.”
When asked about his team’s backline depth, now that De Jongh would be joining fellow hot-stepper Cheslin Kolbe on the sidelines (also with a knee injury), Coetzee added: “Kobus van Wyk is also a centre so he can play there and don’t forget that Peter Grant (when he returns from Japan) is also a No.12.
“Of course, Jean de Villiers can play 12 and 13, so it is a concern when you lose two backs of the quality of Cheslin Kolbe and Juan de Jongh… but I think we will be fine overall.”
Squad captain Jean de Villiers will also miss this weekend’s pre-season friendly against the Kings in Port Elizabeth, meaning a new-look centre combination will be pressed into action on Friday night (kick-off 19h00).
“Jean has taken a blow to the ear. You don’t want to risk him now, so he will probably be out for another week,” said Coetzee. “Damian needs to get time at 12, he will be playing there in Super Rugby as well as on the wing.
“Michael van der Spuy did well in the Absa Currie Cup last year and he gets a start again this weekend. Pat Howard is actually more of a 13 than a winger, so he is one of the other players in the squad (this week).
“I am really close to getting one (outside back) and I will probably make an announcement (about a possible new signing) in the next week or two week or two.
“But our policy is still – first and foremost – to look from within, which is why someone like Devon Williams is in the mix here for Friday against the Kings. Devon has out and out pace and he did well for the cup-winning DHL WP Under-21s last year.”
Meanwhile, coach Coetzee wished veteran speedster Gio Aplon the best of luck ahead of the weekend – as he gets ready to tie the knot on Saturday – meaning that fit-again Springbok Jaco Taute will have an opportunity to make his long-awaited comeback from knee surgery.
Taute has not played since suffering a serious knee injury during the early stages of last year’s Super Rugby tournament and Aplon’s absence will allow him an opportunity to start in the last line of defence.
“Gio is not involved this weekend – it’s his big day on Saturday, he is getting married,” said the DHL Stormers boss.
“But, at the same time, it’s great to have Jaco back,” added Coetzee.
“There is not a big expectation on Jaco, he has been out for a while and he has trained well so we are looking at giving him a minimum of 30 minutes to see how it goes. It’s a matter of getting the confidence back after an injury like that.”