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Mon Apr 21 11:41:34 SAST 2014

Coetzee confirms that Schalk will not return

CRAIG RAY | 11 July, 2012 06:270 Comments
Schalk Burger celebrates with Xolani Vilakazi during the Laureus Soweto Schools Rugby Project visit at Tswelelang Primary School on June 14, 2012 in Soweto
Image by: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

STORMERS coach Allister Coetzee has confirmed what has long been suspected, that flank Schalk Burger will play no further part in the Super 15 this year.

He has been on the sidelines since injuring his knee on the first weekend of action in February.

Initially, the diagnosis was that he would be out for "three weeks", but with each passing week injury updates have proved inaccurate.

Coetzee kept saying Burger would return, which was at odds with what Springbok insiders knew late in May.

The Bok medical staff were already aware two months ago that Burger would play no part in the Four Nations tournament, formerly the Tri-Nations, which starts next month. The Stormers must also have known that, but continued to keep fans hopeful of Burger's return.

Now Coetzee has admitted Burger and fellow flank Nick Koster will not play in Stormers colours again this season.

The coach held hope that injured No8 Duane Vermeulen might be fit for the semifinals.

"We don't have much hope for Schalk and Nick playing in the competition again," Coetzee finally conceded.

"We're more positive about Duane, but he's definitely not ready to play on Saturday."

The Stormers face the Melbourne Rebels at Newlands.

Despite their horrendous loose-forward injury run - which has also accounted for Nizaam Carr - the Stormers have won the SA Conference for the second year running.

While topping that table is not that significant, the prize of a home semifinal and potentially a home final is invaluable.

And the Stormers will need all the help that a home-ground advantage brings as they enter the play-offs thin in the back row.

Canadian flank Jebb Sinclair, who was contracted on a short-term basis in the absence of the four injured loose forwards, is ineligible for the play-offs because he wasn't a registered member of the squad by the cut-off date of April 1.

Stormers management unsuccessfully lobbied with Sanzar for Sinclair's inclusion in the play-off.

For a player from outside the contracted group to be included in the squad, the Stormers had to prove they had no viable alternatives in those positions.

With Don Armand and Tyrone Holmes from their Vodacom Cup squad in the Stormers' mix, they were unsuccessful in convincing the authorities that Sinclair was essential.

Another injury to one of the loose forwards could bring Sinclair back into contention, though it's the last thing Coetzee would need at this stage.

The Stormers have already used 10 loose-forward and seven different back-row combinations.

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