Stormers cope without Schalk
Cape Town – Schalk Burger is set to miss Friday night’s clash against the Brumbies at Newlands, but the Stormers already showed at the weekend that they can cope without their captain in this year’s Super 14.
Burger tweaked a hamstring early in Saturday’s 27-7 win over the Waratahs and was replaced by Pieter Louw in the 23rd minute.
This however did not knock the Stormers off their stride and Louw was impressive in their thumping of the Waratahs.
Once again the Stormers did not pick up a bonus point, but it would be unreasonable to criticise them for that this week. This was, after all, a victory over one of the better teams in the tournament.
“Apart from our defence, I am delighted with the win. We lost our captain early and it shows we are growing as a team,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.
“Andries Bekker took over as captain and there was good composure in the team.”
Last year the Stormers were knocked off their stride in the first game of their campaign at Newlands when Jean de Villiers was stretchered from the field.
However, this year the loss of their captain and one of the world’s best loose forwards during the course of the match held no such grave consequences.
“We just stuck to our structures. Everybody knew what to do and there are enough leaders in the team to make decisions. It was very simple,” said Andries Bekker, who was named man of the match.
While Burger is a major doubt for Friday, Wicus Blaauw may well be back in contention. The loosehead prop injured his shoulder against the Lions in the first week.
“Wicus is making very good progress and has had two sessions with the conditioning coach. He’s a young man and recovering quickly. He may be available,” said Coetzee.
Not that Coetzee will want to change his line-up without good reason.
JC Kritzinger performed well at loosehead in Blaauw’s absence and the Stormers pack more than stood their ground against one of the most physical packs in the competition.
“There were still a few mistakes with regards to the physical aspect, but overall it was a big mental boost. The Waratahs are strong in the scrums and lineouts,” said Bekker.
Only about 37 000 people came to watch the Stormers register the biggest win in their history over the Waratahs, but Cape rugby fans should catch onto the spirit this week.
The Brumbies lost 32-50 against the Bulls at the weekend, but led 21-20 at half-time and the altitude on the Highveld probably had a role in their demise.
The Stormers will therefore not rest on their laurels.
“The Brumbies are a good side and have gained Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom,” said Coetzee.
“They offer a different challenge and are not as physical as the Waratahs. They keep possession well and take the ball through phases.”