Stormers take 'low risk' approach
The Stormers have opted to start their season without several key players, because it means avoiding long-term, recurring injuries.
The Stormers may have several key players on the sideline, but coach Allister Coetzee will not risk long-term damage to any of his stars by rushing them back prematurely.
Speaking ahead of their season opener against the Bulls in Pretoria on Friday, Coetzee explained why he is taking a cautious approach with big-name squad members like Springboks Schalk Burger, Juan de Jongh and Eben Etzebeth - despite the massive challenge awaiting them at Loftus Versfeld.
Burger, who underwent knee surgery and missed the entire 2012, has not made sufficient progress on the road to full recovery from a pre-season calf strain.
Coetzee admitted the calf problem is a byproduct of the knee injury, even though Burger has made a full recovery from the surgery he underwent last year.
The result is that Burger will be sidelined for at least the first three matches - against the Bulls this week, then the Sharks in Durban next week and the Chiefs (in Cape Town in Week Four).
Describing it as "one of those unfortunate incidents", Coetzee said he does not want to put a date on Burger's return.
"Hopefully when we reassess after the Chiefs game, during the bye week [in Week Five], he'll be 100 percent to play," the Stormers mentor said, adding: "I want to make 100 percent sure Schalk will play injury free.
"I don't want to risk Schalk and push him for the first game and he ends up being sidelined for up to six weeks. I will play Schalk when he is ready, when there is finally no niggle, nothing.
"If there is something, anything, I won't risk him, I won't play him."
Coetzee admitted that it is frustrating, for both the player and coaching staff, but they are not going to rush him back.
"The knee is 100 percent, but once you come off a big injury there is the chance of another niggle.
"You want the calf muscle to not only be medically right, but you want it to be stronger and that is the reasoning behind my approach - he must be able to take a full load on it [the calf]."
Coetzee said he is taking the same cautious approach with Bok midfielder Juan de Jongh, who is in the final stages of his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury.
"If we were to play a semifinal or a Final this weekend, Juan would have played," the coach said, adding: "He ran pain free, without any hassles.
"The important thing is that I don't want the recurrence of a hamstring [injury], then he will be out longer - that extra week of rehabilitation and building up the muscle will lower the risk of the injury recurring."
Coetzee said it is the first game of the season and all the franchises are having injury problems.
"There is hardly a team that is able to field their top side," he said.
"We have [captain] Keegan Daniel and Bismarck [du Plessis] out for the Sharks, the Reds are without [captain James] Horwill and [scrumhalf [Will] Genia, the Bulls have [Dean] Greyling [sidelined].
"All teams have players out - similar to us. We have Eben [Etzebeth] out, Juan de Jongh and Schalk Burger out.
"It is still long way to go in the competition. You want your players back, for them to play for lengthy stints - not to come back for one game and then have another lengthy lay-off."
The Stormers mentor said there is no need to rush a player back if there is a risk of losing him for a longer period.
"We have sufficient depth for this game.
"It would be penny wise, pound foolish and that is not a risk I am prepared to take.
"I have always maintained, if you want to do well in this competition, you have to get you players back towards the latter stages of this competition."
Even without several Boks - like Burger, De Jongh and Etzebeth - the Stormers are able to field a very powerful and capable matchday 22.
"That is a lesson I learnt in the Currie Cup [last year], the focus should be on the guys who are available," Coetzee said.
"We must make sure they understand the details and know what is coming this weekend.
"It is world class players we missing and we do have four or five players making their debut for the Stormers. However, they are all quality players.
"It is the first time since I have been involved here [at the Stormers] that we have such depth. We have Joe Pietersen on the bench, Gerhard van den Heever and Dewald Duvenhage as backs cover.
"It is a big game for us against a quality [Bulls] outfit at Loftus - it is never going to be easy, but with this team we have covered all our basis and we'll be up for a massive derby game."