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Stormers face hooker crisis


Cape Town – The Stormers are in the market for a hooker, after it was revealed on Friday that two of their three hookers would not be ready for the start of the 2013 Super Rugby season.

Springbok Tiaan Liebenberg was still recovering from a back injury, according to Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, and was unable to take contact at training, though he would join the Stormers' pre-season camp in Hermanus next week.

Another hooker, Scarra Ntubeni, suffered a freak injury at training earlier this week when a fellow player fell on his shoulder – an injury which was likely to keep him on the sidelines for a month.

Coetzee said Deon Fourie was the only number two in the squad who would be ready for action in their first Super Rugby match against the Bulls, at Loftus Versfeld, on February 22.

“I will be on the lookout for a hooker even outside the province because it is a real concern at this stage,” Coetzee said.

“At this stage Scarra's injury may not require an operation but we'll know more about his condition next week, when it will be reassessed.

“The injury came about because of a training ground accident and we'll treat him conservatively because he's a vital player for us.

“Tiaan is working on his throw-ins but he may not have contact at training.

“We need to find a hooker that suits our team.”

Fourie played as a loosie for the greater part of last season but Coetzee said the plan was to use him as an out-and-out hooker this year. He had decided to continue his career in Cape Town despite a lucrative offer from French Top 14 club Toulon.

Meanwhile, Coetzee confirmed that Bryan Habana would see out the Super Rugby season with the Stormers before taking up a contract with Toulon.

“Bryan has been a great asset here in Western Province and been very good in his leadership role, on and off the field,” he said.

“It is probably the right decision for Bryan, because it's something that he should do sooner or later.

“We wish him well at Toulon and we have to make sure that when the Currie Cup season comes around that we have someone whose ready to step into his shoes. Life must go on.”

Coetzee would not be drawn into a discussion on who their captain would be this season, but he was pleased they could call on the likes of Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, the Springbok skipper.

“Apart from Jean and Schalk we also have several other players who have done well in leadership roles.

“It is not vital for us to name the captain at this stage but players like Andries Bekker, Deon Fourie and even Habana are all capable of doing the job.”

The Stormers have friendlies lined up against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on February 2 and Boland Cavaliers in Wellington on February 9.

“This season we don't have the luxury of playing three warm-up matches,” Coetzee said.

“I'll be playing with full strength sides in both friendlies so that the players can settle down as a unit.” – Sapa

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