Just days after the departure of a key management member, the Stormers revealed that two key players are in a race against time to be fit for the start of the season.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, addressing a media gathering at the team's training camp in Hermanus, confirmed that veterans Andries Bekker and Duane Vermeulen may miss the opening match against the Hurricanes on February 25.
Bekker, who missed the World Cup in New Zealand with an ankle injury, is making good progress on the road to full recovery after his surgery last year.
The uncapped Vermeulen, who was a member of the pre-World Cup training squad, missed the entire Currie Cup season because of a knee injury.
Coetzee, who did his best to put a positive spin on the latest setback - which followed Senior Professional Coach Rassie Erasmus's departure this week - that both players have about a 75 percent chance of recovering for the opening round.
Although the coach is confident they could be "medically fit", he admitted that they may lack match fitness and that could prevent them from facing the Hurricanes.
"A lot depends on how much game time they get during the pre-season games," Coetzee told the media gathering in Hermanus.
"Like last year I want to give all the players 120 minutes in the buildup, and if they don't get that, then I would rather not play them."
Coetzee added that he does have a back-up plan, should two of his key forwards be ruled out.
The good news is that Rynhardt Elstadt, who missed the entire Currie Cup season through a knee injury, is back in training and ready to start at lock. Other options in the Stormers squad include Eben Etzebeth, De Kock Steenkamp and Hilton Lobberts.
Coetzee made no secret of the fact that Vermeulen, Schalk Burger and Nick Koster would be his preferred choice as a starting loose trio.
Siya Kolisi, a regular starter during the Currie Cup season last year, and Rohan Kitshoff could get a run if Vermeulen doesn't recover in time, while hooker Deon Fourie can cover on the flank as well. Youngsters like Nizaam Carr, Reuben Johannes, Yaya Hartzenberg and Nic Fenton-Wells could also be in the picture.
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