Johannesburg - The Stormers are slowly working towards full muster as the Vodacom
Super Rugby season approaches, with another clutch of Springboks set to
return to the team for Friday night’s warm-up fixture against the Toyota
Cheetahs at Newlands.
According to the supersport.com website, the Stormers dispensed with the SWD Eagles 34-3 in their opening game in
George at the weekend, but the Cheetahs, as fellow Super Rugby
participants, are considered the toughest opponent of the pre-season
phase and thus the one the Cape side will consider to be the dress
rehearsal for the real thing, which comes in the form of the opening
Super Rugby clash with the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on 14 February.
The Stormers will play the Boland Cavaliers in another warm-up game
before the Super Rugby season starts, but with the game taking place
just one week before the trip to Loftus, the normal policy is to include
fringe players for that fixture, plus maybe a top player or two who
would only then be fully ready to play after coming back from injury.
So Allister Coetzee will field as close to possible as he can get to a
full strength team for the Cheetahs game, and Boks Eben Etzebeth and
Siya Kolisi are likely additions to the group that won in George. Nizaam
Carr, struck down in the early stages of the year by a virus, is likely
to return only for the Boland game.
Jean Kleyn will be back in the selection mix this week too, but fellow
promising young lock Ruan Botha is only set to return in another two
weeks. Botha was impressive towards the end of the last Super Rugby
season and also before he was injured in the Currie Cup, and is likely
to be Etzebeth’s partner in the first choice second row combination.
There is plenty of depth in the position though, with Gerbrandt Grobler
back in action after missing most of last season, and Argentine
international Manuel Carizza is also still on the Stormers books until
the end of the year. Last year there were plenty of injury disruptions
at lock and coach Coetzee will be hoping that is not repeated.
Another area where the Stormers depth was tested in 2014 was prop, with
first choices Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff missing for most of the
year, while promising youngster Oli Kebble was also injured more than
he was available. The good news there is that Kitshoff made a strong
return to rugby at the weekend, and Kebble also impressed Coetzee.
“It is a long time since Kitsie last played but he did so well. I am
very pleased with what I saw from the front row guys, not just Kitshoff,
but also Wilco Louw when he came on, and Kebble,” said Coetzee.
“The scrums were outstanding,” he added.
It goes without saying that the Cheetahs on Friday will present the
Stormers with a more searching examination of that facet of play as the
serious part of the build-up gets underway. The Stormers have made a
poor start to the last two Super Rugby seasons so will be placing a high
premium on getting it right in the warm-up games.