In one of those strange sporting ironies that come around once in a while, Schalk Burger and Luke Watson will next week get to share the landmark achievement of their 50th Stormers match.
Burger started his Stormers career in 2004 and Watson moved down from the Sharks in 2005, but the injury that ruled Burger out of the last portion of last year’s Super 14 ensured that the pair will both end up celebrating their 50th game when the Stormers face the Sharks in the competition opener. Although Watson and Burger are team-mates, there is a rivalry between the pair as until last year they were competing for the same position in the Springbok team.
Gavin Rich writes for SuperRugby that officially Burger is still on the doubtful list for the Sharks game due to an ankle tendon injury, but he has been back on the training field this week, and he considers himself a certainty to be available for the match.
“It feels fine now, the injury has been sorted out, and I will be ready to play against the Sharks,” said Burger.
The star Springbok can be considered a certainty for the game even if he is half fit, but the big question revolves around whether Watson will join him in notching his 50th cap as a member of the starting team, or whether he will achieve the landmark by coming on as a replacement later in the game.
The loose-forward configuration is one of coach Rassie Erasmus’s biggest decisions ahead of the Sharks game. Although Watson played both warm-up games against Saracens and Boland as the starting No 8, Erasmus has a high regard for Duane Vermeulen. The Cheetahs recruit was played at No 7 flank against Saracens, but then it needs to be remembered that Burger wasn’t available.
If Francois Louw is fit, as he is expected to be, it could leave Vermeulen, considered one of the hottest young loose forward talents in the country during last year’s Super 14, where he was frequently brilliant in an almost lone-ranger role for the Cheetahs, to fight it out with Watson for the No 8 jersey.
Burger was to have made his 50th appearance against the Brumbies last year. The Stormers marketing people had already commissioned an article on Burger for the match programme to commemorate the achievement, but the Springbok injured a medial ligament against the Highlanders the week before the Brumbies game. He was ruled out of the rest of the Super 14 season.Tweet