Cape Town – Rynhardt Elstadt was expected to beef up the Western Province pack for Friday's Loftus showdown with the Blue Bulls, but the loos forward has suffered a freak injury which may well sideline him for the rest of the season.
Elstadt recently returned from a lay-off due to a rib injury but he suffered an elbow bump to the same area at Monday afternoon's training session, leaving coach Allister Coetzee with fresh concerns that this time he may require surgery.
“There was every chance that Elstadt would be running out against the Bulls on Friday but it's just unfortunate that he took a bump to the area where his injury has just healed,” Coetzee said on Tuesday.
“He was making excellent progress and could have played last week already but we decided that we'll rest him a bit longer and now we have this setback.
“He may require an operation and that could spell the end of the season for him.”
As a result of Elstadt's absence, Coetzee named an unchanged pack for the run-on XV, but has opted for five forwards on the substitutes' bench instead of the usual four.
There is one change in the backline, where Nic Groom has been preferred to Louis Schreuder this week as a rotation exercise.
“The change at scrumhalf is just a matter of rotation and by giving them regular game time I'll have a clearer idea of the pecking order in the province,” Coetzee explained.
“The scrumhalves have all been playing well but I need to know who is number one and so on.”
Fylhalf Demetri Catrakilis was on the sidelines at Tuesday's training but Coetzee said he was being “managed” because the player has had a heavy workload in recent weeks.
WP's defeat to the Golden Lions on Saturday means Province find themselves in a precarious position in reaching the play-off rounds.
“The strength versus strength league system means that when the season is near the end, the outcome of matches will change the log positions drastically,” said Coetzee.
“We are not looking ahead in terms of making the play-offs but our focus is the next match.
“We need to win and the play-off considerations will take care of itself. The players have put pressure on themselves and they are the ones that must get it right.”
Coetzee added that he and his team had looked at the two teams' previous meeting, where Province beat the Bulls 42-6 at Newlands.
“We've had a look at the video of our last meeting and the key was that we played with fantastic intensity,” said Coetzee.
“We were accurate in our intensity but this time we're up against a different beast because the Bulls have some good players returning.
“They have Springboks Dean Greyling, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson returning and that makes them substantially stronger.” – Sapa