Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has played down suggestions that fullback Jaco Taute could be set for a lengthy stay on the sidelines.
Speaking at a media briefing at the team’s base in Bellville on Monday, Coetzee admitted that a knee injury will continue to sideline Taute and rule him out when his team faces the Lions in a Super Round Two match in Johannesburg on Saturday.
However, describing it as “irritation and stiffness”, the Stormers’ mentor said he should be back in about a fortnight.
This follows reports that Taute may be sidelined for a very long time with the knee injury, which flared up after a 30-minute run in a pre-season outing and have again caused him discomfort after a training run on Monday.
While Coetzee was adamant that there is nothing sinister at play, this website has been reliably told that there are fears Taute may never play again.
As it is the Stormers called up young Kings star Siviwe Soyizwapi as a loan player for the rest of the season, which seems to indicate there is more to it than meets the eye.
“We should understand that Jaco [Taute] is coming back from a massive [knee] injury and our whole mindset is to treat it as conservatively as possible,” Coetzee said of the player who has been sidelined since he underwent surgery to repair the damaged of a horror knee injury suffered against the Cheetahs in April last year.
“He would have played [against Boland cavaliers last] Saturday, to get some game time, but the knee played up a bit,” the coach said, adding: “He had a team session this [Monday] morning and now he is sitting outside recovering.
“I think that will be the case for the next couple of weeks – it will be another two weeks till Jaco can play, possibly, a 40 or 60 minute game.”
Coetzee said it was no more than irritation and stiffness that is causing a delay in the fullback’s return.
“It gets stiff after a [training] session,” he said, adding: “It comes with the workload, obviously. A knee that was almost completely reconstructed, after eight months it can’t just be all good and ready to go. It comes with the workload, how much he can manage and how he feels after the [work]load.
“Some players would probably have responded differently, but there’s still swelling after a hard training session and until that is [not] the case we won’t look at him.”
Coetzee said Taute’s conditioning was good, but they can’t afford to play around with a knee problem.
Despite the delay in Taute’s return, Coetzee is happy with the depth he has to cover the back three positions.
“Gio [Aplon] covers at fullback,” the coach said, adding: “We also have Shakes [Siviwe Soyizwapi] from the [Southern] Kings and we have Scott van Breda, Kobus van Wyk and we have Damian [de Allende], with Michael [van der Spuy] at centre.
“We have lots of options to play with – we will never [end up having to] play with 14 men,” Coetzee quipped.
The Stormers mentor said his Kings import Soyizwapi, is similar to Cheslin Kolbe.
“The guy has good feet, he’s a great stepper, can play at fullback and wing. We mustn’t forget that Shakes played for the Kings against the Brumbies in Canberra last year – so he has a bit of [Super Rugby] experience as well.”
He said they have other options as well.
“Devon [Williams] was brilliant at [against the Boland Cavaliers] the weekend and scored a brilliant try. We all talk about getting a wing from outside [of the Stormers franchise], but I am looking at what we have locally.
“If those players don’t come through, then you look to go [look overseas], but it is not always the right thing to do. I am pleased with what we have and also gives us time for Cheslin Kolbe and Juan de Jongh to recover.”
“At this stage it looks like Cheslin will be back in mid-March and Juan perhaps a week later, when we are on tour.”
There are other injury setbacks in the squad.
Lock Jean Kleyn suffered torn ankle ligaments in a warm-up game against Boland over the weekend.
“Kleyn’s injury will require at least six weeks healing and that is another blow to our lock reserves,” said Coetzee.
“[Another lock] Ruan Botha has a stiffness in the groin area after the Boland game and we’ll wait and see when he’s ready to go.
“The good news is that [lock De Kock] Steenkamp will join training as from [next] Monday. His rehab has gone really well and he may be in the running for a place on the bench against the Hurricanes [in as fortnight].”
Coetzee said he was very happy with the way loose forwards Rynhardt Elstadt and Michael Rhodes had been training at lock, but it remained an area of concern.