Good news for Stormers on Wilco
Gavin Rich
February 08, 2018

The DHL Stormers have named nine injured players in an extended squad of 47 for the coming Vodacom Super Rugby season, but the good news for Cape fans is that Wilco Louw is not one of those injured players.

It didn’t look good for the big Springbok tighthead when he left the field in the first half of last weekend’s 26-all draw with the Bulls in a warm-up game in Wellington.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said afterwards that he feared Louw had suffered a hip flexor injury and would be out for some time.

However, Louw was diagnosed with an adaptor strain when he visited a specialist at the start of this week and he was on the exercise bike when the Stormers trained at Newlands on Thursday afternoon.

“It was quite traumatic for Wilco at the weekend but fortunately scans have shown that it is only an adaptor strain and we are expecting him back in full training next week and to be in the selection mix for the first Super Rugby game against the Jaguares,” said Fleck.

“That is good news for us, and further good news is that other players who were doubtful for the competition opener such as Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit are also back in training and should be up for selection for the Jaguares game.”

Louw’s unexpected return to fitness did not happen though before Western Province director of rugby Gert Smal had called in young Cheetahs front-row forward Gunther Janse van Vuuren as back-up.

Van Vuuren is not in the immediate Stormers plans but should the current first choices at tighthead, Louw and Carlu Sadie, be injured, he will be called in.

Another tighthead among the back-up players is Maties tighthead Neethling Fouche, who has a dual contract with Western Province and the Maties.

“We are hoping that Frans Malherbe will be available again by the beginning of April and possibly even sooner, but we thought that Carlu did really well when he had to replace Wilco, and Neethling was part of the Stormers training group at the start of last year and can be called on should he be needed,” said Fleck.

In addition to Springbok tighthead Malherbe – he was the Bok first choice before he was injured – there are several other senior players in the group of nine players who are currently on the injured list.

They include Eben Etzebeth, Jano Vermaak, Scarra Ntubeni and SP Marais, with the other injured players being Jean-Luc du Plessis, Dan du Plessis and Juarno Augustus.

“Fortunately most of those players could be available for us by the time we return from our overseas tour in mid-March,” said the coach.

“We have called up a large squad because obviously for training purposes we need the numbers and we also need the depth to cover for potential further injuries. Frans and Eben form part of the leadership group, but fortunately most of the leadership group from last year are still there.”

A newcomer to that group is Steven Kitshoff, the Bok loosehead who is now back in the Cape after a stint in France. It looks like he will skipper Kolisi’s right-hand man in the first stages of the season.

“Kitsie was our captain in the second half of the warmup game against the Bulls and he did really well. We needed to sort out our discipline and had been shaded and made lots of mistakes in the first half. We had a pretty dominant second half and we see a lot of leadership potential in him. He has come back from France as a more mature player and obviously he is now also a fully fledged international.”

With Louw likely to be fit for the tournament opener, it means the Stormers should be able to field a potentially lethal all Springbok front row of Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Louw against the Jaguares.

Extended Stormers squad: Juarno Augustus, Craig Barry, Nizaam Carr, Jaco Coetzee, Damian de Allende, Jan de Klerk, Paul de Wet, Stephan de Witt, Dan du Plessis, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Johan du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dewaldt Duvenage, JJ Engelbrecht, Eben Etzebeth, Neethling Fouche, JC Janse van Rensburg, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Dan Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, SP Marais, Bongi Mbonambi, Salmaan Moerat, Dean Muir, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Scarra Ntubeni, Caylib Oosthuizen, Sergeal Petersen, Justin Phillips, Raymond Rhule, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, JD Schickerling, Seabelo Senatla, Joshua van Dyk, Chris van Zyl, Alistair Vermaak, Jano Vermaak, EW Viljoen, George Whitehead, Cobus Wiese, Damian Willemse, Eddie Zandberg.

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