Stormers trio back in training
Andries Bekker (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - A few young hopefuls will have their last chance to impress this week ahead of the Stormers selection of a 26-man squad to usher in the 2012 Super Rugby season against New Zealand's Hurricanes in three weeks.
Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday that players would have a final chance to prove their worth against the Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday.
After the Cheetahs match, the Stormers would decide on their Super Rugby squad and those players would play a final warm-up match against the Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in mid-February.
"Many of the players who played in the first warm-up match against Boland two weeks ago will get a run against the Cheetahs this weekend," said Coetzee.
"I want to be fair to all the players in the expanded squad to stake their claims and one can do that best in a match situation.
"We go into this match with very different objectives than we had for last week's Lions match. The most important thing will be to improve on the things that we didn't do well."
The mood in the camp at the team's headquarters in Bellville was fairly upbeat.
Things took a turn for the better when three of the franchise's 'big guns' - Andries Bekker, Reinhardt Elstadt (both locks) and eighthman Duane Vermeulen - joined Monday's training stint.
"We were glad to welcome back those players and their rehab programme is going to plan," said Coetzee.
"It's really all about management and by next week they'll be ready for full contact, although I feel that Elstadt may be ready for game time this weekend.
"We also had Schalk Ferreira, the loosehead, back at training but he's nursing a hamstring strain.
The 27-year-old Ferreira retired from rugby two years ago after a serious neck injury, but he has made a remarkable recovery and late last year he was given the all clear to return to the game.
The Cheetahs had an outing against a composite side of players from the Eagles and Border Bulldogs over the weekend, an outing Coetzee feels will sharpen the Free Staters for their visit to Newlands.
"Now that the Cheetahs had a run and were tested you can expect them to play a quick game, with width," said Coetzee.
"They're very good on building try-scoring movements after securing turn-overs so that's what we'll be up against."
On Tuesday, Jonathan Kaplan, one of the world's foremost referees, will attend a Stormers' training session to try and ensure that players know what to expect at scrum time this season.
Coetzee said referees recently attended a SANZAR (the guardians of Super Rugby) conference where changes were announced for the setting of a scrum.
"SANZAR is looking to have a situation where the front row engages first rather than the whole pack, with the No 8 making a hit at the same time," said Coetzee.
"The aim is to prevent scrums collapsing. It won't compromise the value of the scrums, but it help safety considerations."
The Stormers will name their side for the Cheetahs clash on Wednesday.