Duane fit for the play-offs

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The Springbok star consulted the specialist yesterday after suffering neck spams on Friday, which ruled him out of the Lions match last Saturday. The initial MRI scan revealed that he had a bulging disc at a C5 level.

It was feared that the big No 8 could miss the rest of the Stormers’ campaign, and even the rugby World Cup, which would have been a big blow to both the Stormers and the Springboks.

Vermeulen was sorely missed by the Stormers in the semi-final matches against the Crusaders and the Sharks in 2011 and 2012 respectively when he was ruled out because of injury.

But Stormers team doctor, Jason Suter, had some great news last night, as the bearded one will be in the mix during the business end of the competition. However, he will not play any part in the Stormers’ final league match against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

“The neurosurgeon has given us the positive feedback that he continues to improve and that he still shows no signs of specific nerve root irritation,” Suter said in a statement.

“After reviewing the MRI with his radiology colleagues, the neurosurgeon is confident that the disc bulge is old and has not changed from previous scans, and is not the cause of the severe spasm. He has recommended no surgical management and Duane will undergo extensive physiotherapy over the next ten days.

“The neurosurgeon has also indicated that there is no risk of exacerbating the injury and feels that Duane will be able to play in the Super Rugby playoffs.”

Vermeulen would in any case have been part of a big group of first-choice players to get a breather against the Sharks, with Coetzee and his team casting one eye on the playoffs.

There could be as many as 13 changes to the Stormers’ run-on team this weekend, with the likes of Ruan Botha, Kobus van Wyk, Michael Rhodes, Wilco Louw, Jaco Taute, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, and Godlin Masimla set to get some gametime.

Cheslin Kolbe, who has played every minute for the Stormers this season, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth and Demetri Catrakilis will probably watch the match from the comfort of their livingroom, as Coetzee wants to keep them fresh for the playoffs.

But, despite clinching the South African Conference after a 19-19 draw against the Lions, the Stormers are still looking to end off their season on a high in Durban. Second team or no second team, they want to keep that winning momentum going.

“There will be an opportunity given to players who haven’t had a chance to start this season. Like I said on Saturday after the game, we want to keep building that depth in our squad, especially against good, quality opposition like the Sharks,” Coetzee said.

“We are also preparing to win and to do our best to win the match. We have a duty to perform this weekend, and make sure the team who runs out there is set up to beat the Sharks. But we have to get ready for a quarter-final, because some of the players need to be rested because they are over-reaching,” the former Saru scrumhalf said.

At one stage yesterday morning it looked like Springbok captain Jean de Villiers could be part of the team to play the Sharks, as he took part in full training yesterday.

The contact was minimal, but the veteran centre looked really comfortable on the ball, although he does seem to lack a bit of sharpness after last playing a competitive match on the Boks’ end of year tour last year.

Coetzee, though, says he isn’t quite ready to take the field and handle the pace and intensity of Super Rugby. But it’s believed that the big centre with the silky skills could be back on the park when the Springboks take on a World XV side at Newlands on June 11.

“Geez, he is looking sharp!” Coetzee said. “But it’s definitely not the time for Jean to be part of any contact situations yet. He is doing well and he is energised. He is looking fresh, and I can see he just wants to get his hands on the ball and get a feel for it again.” - Cape Times

Original source: Duane fit for the play-offs

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