Duane Vermeulen has been ruled out of the qualifying play-off against the Brumbies and may not be fit for a possible semi-final. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers captain injured his neck in the buildup to the league clash against the Lions. While he was subsequently cleared of serious injury, there have always been questions around his recovery time.
On Monday, Coetzee confirmed that Vermeulen would not play against the Brumbies in the first round of the play-offs. Vermeulen has not yet returned to training, and there's a chance he may not return for the remainder of the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
‘Duane has improved a lot, but he’s been ruled out for this weekend,’ Coetzee said. ‘At this stage, it’s just about getting Duane to be pain-free and to regain his range [in terms of neck movement]. If you look at another week or two, who knows? You want to be absolutely sure with an injury like this.
‘As soon as he’s pain-free he’ll start with his cardio sessions again, and see whether he moves without discomfort. Pain is a big indicator, once there’s no pain and full range, he should be good to go.
‘I wouldn’t rule him out [of a possible semi-final and final] completely,’ added Coetzee.
In the meantime, Juan de Jongh will continue as skipper of the Stormers, and Nizaam Carr will retain the No 8 jersey. While Coetzee acknowledged Vermeulen’s absence is significant, he believes the Stormers' back row can outplay that of the Brumbies.
‘Duane is such an imposing player and character and has such a presence in any team he plays for, it would have been great to have him in this match. Nemo [Carr] brings something different to the team, I have a helluva lot of trust in the rest of the pack.
‘Duane is a natural sort of poacher of the ball as well. While we will be missing that element, Siya Kolisi has stepped up and turned over a number of balls for us this season. The big thing won’t be in poaching, but in the tackle fight, to make positive tackles.’
In other injury news, hooker Scarra Ntubeni (calf) will need to pass a fitness test this week. The good news for the Stormers is that flyhalf and goal-kicker Demetri Catrakilis has recovered from a mild concussion and should start against the Brumbies.
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