Little mercy for top Boks
Eben Etzebeth (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Influential, heavily-exposed
Springboks from 2012 like captain Jean de Villiers and young lock find Eben
Etzebeth will be plunged into franchise battle at the earliest opportunity this
Senior, Test-calibre players in the ranks
of the Stormers, the SA conference winners and eventual losing semi-finalists
in Super Rugby, will be expected to be truly “battle ready” - in the words of
coach Allister Coetzee - for the 2013 competition before it even begins.
That is because the Newlands-based outfit
have an unusually difficult first three fixtures: away derbies against
traditionally fiercest domestic rival powers the Bulls and Sharks, and then an
opening home outing against defending champions the Chiefs.
So Coetzee needs his best troops to get
meaningful tune-up time in the two pre-season friendlies arranged against the
Cheetahs (Bloemfontein, February 2) and Boland Cavaliers (Wellington, February
When the Stormers visited Wellington in
sweltering mid-January last season, they put out a decidedly second- or even
third-string side for the most part, perhaps influenced to some extent by the
fact that their 2012 Super Rugby draw featured a less taxing start: home to the
Hurricanes and Sharks, and then a week-three bye.
But there will be no such charity to
blue-chip players this time.
Asked by Sport24 at a media briefing on
Friday whether various Boks would be largely cocooned until the
competition-proper, Coetzee said: “No, we (will need) them ASAP ... there are
only two friendlies this year and both will involve our so-called ‘top 30’
“I gave the Springboks the whole of
December off. They’ve done the work and it’s pleasing to see they’ve taken
ownership, done the foundations well.
“Lots of the Springboks are running at the
front (in training) which is what you want to see; setting the example.
“You’ve got to have the players battle
ready. You can’t just have them medically fit alone; the luxury of a big name
“We’re pushing hard with the conditioning
... now going into the technical and tactical phase.
“Those first three games involve possibly
three of the best five or so teams in the competition. Bulls away, Sharks away,
Chiefs home ... the players will have to be ready, so the top ones must play in
“Put players in cotton wool? Never; they’ll
be underdone and found wanting against that sort of opposition.”
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