Home Sport United Rugby Championship: Stormers’ Moerat eyes Loftus return

United Rugby Championship: Stormers’ Moerat eyes Loftus return

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Moerat had recovered from knee surgery ahead of his return to play against the Lions for the URC opener, but there wasn’t any trepidation about avoiding another injury against the Sharks recently – and he came through the game unscathed.

Salmaan Moerat is back for the Stormers and could run out against the Bulls on Saturday. File Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

Ashfak Mohamed

Salmaan Moerat has had a nightmare run with injuries over the past few seasons, so he will hope it’s a thing of the past ahead of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown between the Stormers and the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

The 25-year-old Springbok lock has missed large chunks of the past few campaigns due to injuries, and the latest issue occurred in the first game of the current URC season against the Lions at Ellis Park in late October.

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Moerat – who was appointed as the new Stormers captain in the place of Steven Kitshoff, who had joined Ulster – trudged off in the first half in Johannesburg with a torn pectoral muscle, and only made his comeback a few weeks ago for the Cape side.

He came on in the second half of the 25-21 win over the Sharks in Durban on February 17 and played around 27 minutes at Kings Park. But now that he has had a taste of the action once more, Moerat will hope to be even more involved in the big north-south derby against the Bulls on Saturday.

“It’s getting to the business end of the competition now, and this weekend’s result can determine a lot for both sides in the run to the play-offs,” the former Junior Springbok captain told the Stormers website on Tuesday.

“I expect nothing less than an end-to-end physical battle, and derbies like these are the games you want to be part of!”

Moerat had recovered from knee surgery ahead of his return to play against the Lions for the URC opener, but there wasn’t any trepidation about avoiding another injury against the Sharks recently – and he came through the game unscathed.

The No.4 lock will be eager to climb into the Bulls pack this weekend where youngster Reinhardt Ludwig has been outstanding as a No.4 himself, having been included in the 43-man group for the Springbok alignment camp taking place in Cape Town next week.

But first Moerat must get the nod from coach John Dobson, with Adré Smith having added a real physical edge to the Stormers pack in his absence.

“The week leading up to the (Sharks) game, I was very excited. I think before kick-off some good nerves started kicking in. It honestly was a feeling I thoroughly missed,” he said.

“I settled in really nicely, and it didn’t even feel like I was out for as long as I was – kind of like riding a bike … Everything became second nature.

“I’ve always loved leadership but for me leadership is about the collective. That being said, I am definitely excited to be back, and serve the team the best way I know how.

“I think the competition for places within the team is very healthy at the moment, and more so at lock. Ruben (van Heerden) and Adré have played some great rugby this season.

“They have laid a solid foundation for our line-outs, and have worked tirelessly in the scrums.”

“I think the team is in a great place, with anyone being able to step in and do a great job. Healthy competition always brings the best out of us, and keeps our standards where they need to be.”

Meanwhile, in a significant boost to the Stormers, forwards coach Rito Hlungwani confirmed on Tuesday that stalwart tighthead prop Frans Malherbe will be among the returning Springboks for Saturday’s Loftus clash.

Malherbe had an extended break after last year’s World Cup due to a back injury, but has been training with the Stormers again for about a month now.

He was close to playing in the Sharks game a few weeks ago, but wasn’t ready to be part of the match 23. But he will be considered for selection this weekend alongside the other Boks who are back from their resting protocols – Deon Fourie, Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse – and Hlungwani agreed that there will be a few selection headaches for coach Dobson this week.

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