On top of losing a large number of players to Springbok duty Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has to contend with a lengthy injury list as he prepares his team for the start of the Currie Cup season.
With the leadership core of the Stormers squad unavailable due to their roles in the national squad Coetzee will be looking to some of the promising young players in the Cape to put their hands up and make an impact as Western Province look to go one better than their second place in the Currie Cup last year.
Coetzee has appointed Duane Vermeulen as the Currie Cup captain for the season, with Dewaldt Duvenage as his deputy but neither player will be available this weekend for the opening fixture against Griquas at Newlands and Coetzee will name an interim captain on Thursday.
Vermeulen faces another four weeks on the sideline with his knee injury while Coetzee is hopeful that Duvenage will be available to face the Leopards next week.
But the Western Province boss' injury woes do not end there, promising lock Rynhardt Elstadt, who made a big impact in Super Rugby this season as Andries Bekker's second row partner, has been ruled out for the entire season after undergoing surgery on his knee.
Coetzee explained: "Rynhardt Elstadt is out for the season, he injured his knee in the Super Rugby semifinal and has been operated on so he will be out for 12 weeks. Because he is still young he could recover quicker than that, but I doubt it."
Anton van Zyl has been released by the province and will leave in the next week to play for Stade Francais in Paris, but Coetzee is still happy that he has enough depth at lock.
"We have got de Kock Steenkamp who has been waiting in the wings for this opportunity, we also have Hilton Lobberts, Adriaan Fondse and two youngsters in Eben Etzebeth and Quinn Roux so there are still a couple of guys that we can give the opportunity to at lock," he said.
There are also a few players who are on the road to recovery and Coetzee's options should be bolstered in the coming weeks, despite the difficult situation he is in at the moment.
He noted: "Pieter Louw and Dewaldt Duvenage will be available for the second game of the competition against the Leopards. JC Kritzinger has still got a long way to go, he could be ready in mid-August and Lionel Cronje will only come back into the mix towards the end of September but Kurt Coleman is four weeks away."
With Duvenage, Cronje and Coleman all ruled out for this weekend Coetzee is pinning his hopes on fit-again flyhalf Gary van Aswegen to steer the ship against Griquas.
By Michael de Vries
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