A neurosurgeon has indicated that Springbok and Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen should be fit for the Vodacom Super Rugby play-offs. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers, Boks and South African rugby fans everywhere will be breathing a sigh of relief. It would appear that Vermeulen's neck injury, which was sustained in a training session last Friday, is not serious. The robust loose forward is expected to recover over the next 10 days and return to action in the play-offs.
Vermeulen suffered an intense spasm in his neck after last Friday's captain's run, with an MRI showing a bulging disc at a C5 level. Vermeulen consulted a neurosurgeon on Monday, and the prognosis was positive.
'The neurosurgeon has given us the positive feedback that he continues to improve and that he still shows no signs of specific nerve root irritation,' said Stormers team doctor Jason Suter.
'After reviewing the MRI with his radiology colleagues, the neurosurgeon is confident the disc bulge is old and has not changed from previous scans, and is not the cause of the severe spasm. He has recommended no surgical management and Duane will undergo extensive physiotherapy over the next 10 days.
'The neurosurgeon has also indicated that there is no risk of exacerbating the injury and feels that Duane will be able to play in the Super Rugby play-offs.
'The Stormers medical team will continue to manage him, and he will obtain a second neurosurgical opinion [on Tuesday] to ensure he is given all possible input to his injury and its management,' added Suter.
The other good news is the Stormers’ first-choice goal-kicker Demetri Catrakilis will be fit for the knockout games.
Kurt Coleman should start at No 10 against the Sharks, and Western Province’s Vodacom Cup flyhalf Robert du Preez could also feature in the matchday 23. However, in the do-or-die fixtures, the Stormers will have Catrakilis, their best goal-kicker and game manager, back in that key position.
‘We’ll wait for his [concussion] results on Tuesday, but already, he’s feeling much better, less symptoms,’ said coach Allister Coetzee. ‘There’s no nausea, there’s no light-headedness. He’ll be training [on Tuesday]. I don’t forsee any problems with regards to his availability for the quarter-final.’
While some have criticised Catrakilis for his attacking game, the flyhalf has been invaluable to the Cape side’s cause in 2015. Catrakilis has kicked accurately for goal and accumulated 156 points, a tally that accounts for 43% of the total number of points scored by the Stormers this season.
Coleman has been less successful in front of goal. The second-string flyhalf missed four goal attempts in the 25-17 loss to the Cheetahs. Last week, Coleman missed three penalty attempts. Had he been more accurate, perhaps even with one of those kicks, the Stormers would have beaten the Lions and would now be in a position to nail down a home semi-final.
The Stormers will need Catrakilis to make a complete recovery ahead of the play-offs if they are to advance any further in this competition. They will also be hoping Vermeulen makes a complete recovery over the next two weeks to bolster their leadership and breakdown effort.
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