Cape Town – The Stormers got their United Rugby Championship title defence off to a solid start with a 38-15 victory over Connacht in Stellenbosch at the weekend, but it didn’t come without cost.
Winger Seabelo Senatla sustained a “serious injury” to his shoulder and pectoral muscle in the final quarter of the Stormers’ URC opening game at the Danie Craven Stadium on Saturday.
In the 62nd minute, Connacht’s Bundee Aki was red-carded after he crashed into the Stormers speedster at a ruck.
Concussion was the first concern considering how contact was made to the former Sevens superstar, but the actual injury could come with a much more damaging and lengthy prognosis.
With the turnover the visitors secured at the breakdown, Connacht thought they had scored a try to get back into the game after the Stormers led 16-8, but the TMO showed that Aki’s shoulder made contact with Senatla’s head.
From there on, the floodgates opened as the Stormers ran in three more tries after Aki left the field.
Speaking after the game, Stormers coach John Dobson didn’t sound too optimistic about the wing’s injury.
“It’s done a serious injury to Senatla,” Dobson said after the match.
“I feel a bit sorry for Aki, because I know what he was trying to do. It’s tough, but we can’t have Senatla out for the season.
“We’ll scan him tomorrow (Sunday). Rugby is just evolving fast … big people moving fast.”
The Stormers are already without wing Leolin Zas, who had to sit out the final against the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium last season after making a massive impact and scoring the most tries in the competition.
The Stormers will no doubt feel Senatla’s absence should he be ruled out for a significant period.
The 29-year-old was in superb form during the inaugural URC season as he not only proved a constant threat out wide, but also made his presence felt at the breakdown and with his tackles.
The Stormers next face Edinburgh at Cape Town Stadium this Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Sharks hung on in Parma for a dramatic 42-37 win over a spirited Zebre Parma side in the Durban team’s opening match of the new URC season.
Both teams scored five tries apiece in a match of two halves, which had the Sharks dominating the first half but losing the second to the Italian side.
Meanwhile, the Lions edged the Ospreys 28-27 at the Swansea.com Stadium in Wales, while the Bulls clung on for an equally dramatic 33-31 victory over Scottish side Edinburgh at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria in a spirited weekend for the South African teams.