Tiaan back, but other Boks missing
Tiaan back, but other Boks missingSHARE
Springbok hooker Tiaan Liebenberg is back in the Stormers' selection frame for this week, but several other Boks won't feature against the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee confirmed on Monday that Liebenberg, who has been sidelined with a back injury since the latter rounds of the Currie Cup last year, has resumed full training with the squad and is ready to play against the defending champion Chiefs.
It is not as given that he will start on Saturday, but the 31-year-old hooker will at the very least play off the bench.
The Boks who will not play at Newlands include Stormers captain Schalk Burger (no time frame on his return from a calf strain), centre Juan de Jongh (hamstring) and utility back Jaco Taute (injury in the groin area).
De Jongh has now been sidelined for more than a month with an injury he sustained in a pre-season loss to the Cheetahs. Even though Coetzee said last week De Jongh was ":close" to being fit to play against the Sharks in Durban at the weekend, the delay in his return may hint at a far bigger problem.
"He is not ready yet," Coetzee told a media briefing when asked about De Jongh, without offering a timeframe for his possible return.
Taute, who like fellow Bok Elton Jantjies is on loan from the Lions, is being held back for at least another week after taking a blow to the groin area in the first-round loss to the Bulls.
"He is responding very well to treatment, but [at least] another week away from returning," Coetzee said.
Other players who did not train on Monday included Bok wing Bryan Habana, who was having trouble with a quad, Joe Pietersen (tightness around the calf) and prop Frans Malherbe (neck spasm).
Coetzee was adamant that all three would be ready to play against the Chiefs.
Malherbe saw a specialist on Monday, but according to Coetzee the good news was it was," nothing major" and he will most likely start training on Wednesday.
Utility forward Michael Rhodes, signed from the Lions in the off season, also started training this week, but is not available.
Hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni (shoulder) and Bok lock Eben Etzebeth (ankle) will only join team training again on April 1.
Coetzee also declined to put a time frame on the return of the captain, Burger.
"He is making progress and is positive," he said of the loose forward's calf injury, sustained during pre-season training, adding: "He is running on the treadmill."
Despite the extensive injury list, Coetzee is thankful that this is a year the Stormers have the depth to cope with these setbacks.
"Just imagine where we would be now if we didn't have the depth we currently have," Coetzee told the media briefing.