Stormers and Western Province head coach John Dobson has confirmed that experienced loosehead prop Ali Vermaak could miss the rest of the season after rupturing a tendon against Griquas on Wednesday.
Western Province suffered a last-minute loss to Griquas in a Currie Cup match in Cape Town on Wednesday afternoon, but of more concern to Dobson will be his front-row stocks.
The Cape side has already lost Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni to the Springboks, while Neethling Fouche missed Wednesday’s Currie Cup clash.
Tighthead prop Sazi Sandi, who replaced Fouche in the starting lineup, was forced off in the second half with a concussion, before veteran loosehead Ali Vermaak had to be helped off the field in the second half.
Losing the 32-year-old Vermaak, easily the most experienced member of WP and the Stormers front row currently, is a big blow given that there is just over a week to go before the Stormers welcome the British & Irish Lions to Cape Town.
“I also thought it was his neck initially, but it is actually his achilles [tendon], which has unfortunately ruptured, which is a long-term injury so it is a hell of a blow for us,” Dobson said after Wednesday’s loss.
Vermaak had made a remarkable comeback from a career-threatening neck injury in November last year, but is now looking at another long spell on the sidelines.
As far as replacements go, Dobson said he still has young looseheads in Leon Lyons and Kwenzo Blose, but would rather trust in his youth stocks than bring in other player who could block their pathway to the first team.
“As you saw when Sazi went off [with a concussion], we were given a tough time in the scrums. Our options there are Leon Lyons and Kwenzo Blose. Both are really good young props but we are going to have to revisit our approach to scrums.
“We have been keeping the same approach through all the competitions, no matter who the personnel are. Now you take away Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Neethling Fouche, Ali Vermaak, Sazi Sandi, Bongi [Mbonambi] and Scarra [Ntubeni]. We are going to have to give some youngsters game time and maybe look at rebuilding there because we cannot afford to give away three penalties like we did.
“Guys like Leon need to be given an opportunity now. If we get one more [injury], well, we still have Deon Bleuler, who is at Maties. You don’t want to bring somebody in from the outside who isn’t better than the youngster you have and blocking his path. We were keen to give Leon some game time at some stage.”
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images