Stormers captain Schalk Burger will undergo three days of intense fitness testing to determine if he will lead the team against the Bulls next week.
Burger, who missed the entire 2012 through a serious knee injury that required surgery more than once, is currently recuperating from a 'grade one' calf strain he sustained in pre-season training.
Saying the frustration of another injury is "extremely frustrating", Burger remained hopeful that he will lead the 2011 and 2012 South African conference winners out at Loftus Versfeld next Friday, February 22.
However, before that he will have to get through three days of intense training in Cape Town to see if the calf will hold up.
"If I could have cursed I would have," a clearly frustrated Burger quipped, when quizzed by the media about his latest setback.
"The knee was feeling very good, but then the calf setback came up," he said, adding that it was never serious, just a "minor" strain.
"It is very frustrating, especially from a conditioning perspective," Burger said, adding: "I could not train with the team for about two weeks and missed out on some game time.
"I have three tough days ahead and if I get through this week's conditioning I should be available to face the Bulls [in the opening round of the competition] next week."
He admitted that even if he is cleared to play, he there is no guarantee that he will be ion the field for a full 80 minutes in Pretoria.
"I think they'll play me till I go red in the face," he said, when asked if he has any idea how much game time he will get at Loftus.
However, I first have to get through this week.
"It is about conditioning and adding the workload to the leg. If the calf and everything feels good, I will have a chance to face the Bulls."
The other issue, after a year-long lay-off is the fact that he has hardly had any physical contact, other than a few tackles at training.
And that could be an issue against a team as physical as the Bulls.
Burger admitted that you can never really make up for a lack of physical contact it in training.
"You try to simulate it and try to get as close as possible to game fitness and taking contact.
"However, there is nothing like an actual match - we are trying simulate it, and I do take some tackles. I have taken some contact and it is feeling fine.
"We'll just have to wait and see - especially with a local derby against the Bulls, there is always a bit of extra intensity."
Burger admitted the calf injury has put his conditioning back a bit.
"I would have liked to have done more conditioning and get some game time. It didn't work out for me, so I'm a bit off conditioning wise."
He said the lack of conditioning and match fitness will add to his pre-match nerves.
"I would have loved to be able to sit there drinking a fizzy drink and a glass of water - now I'll have to have an energy drink."
Burgher also said he is, as he has done for the last few years, willing to play in any position among the loose forwards.
"I am pretty open to it [playing at either flank or at No.8].
"Obviously when you are younger you specialise in one position, but now I am keen to play anywhere.
"If I'm fit I'll probably play [at] No.6 at the Stormers, with a bit of a linking role.
"However, if I get on the field I just want to have fun - I haven't played for such a long time I can't wait to get out there."
By Jan de Koning
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