Peter Grant (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Two Japanese spectators at Monday afternoon’s Stormers training session was a clear sign that Peter Grant was in the vicinity of the Western Province Rugby Union’s High Performance Centre in Bellville.
However, there was no sign on the training field of the Springbok flyhalf, who still played club rugby in Japan earlier this year.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee confirmed the possibility that they may have to take on the Sharks with Lionel Cronjé at flyhalf. In such an event Kurt Coleman may well be on the bench.
However, Coetzee is still hopeful that Grant will recover sufficiently from his knee injury to wear the Stormers’ No 10 jersey.
“I would like to give Peter as much time as possible. I’m even prepared to wait until Friday to see if he can recover fully,” said Coetzee.
“We all know this is a very important game. The Sharks will be at full strength and we also have a few players back.”
Jean de Villiers (centre), Bryan Habana (wing) and Rynhardt Elstadt (lock) all look set to be included in the Stormers team after missing the previous Super Rugby match – against the Lions – with injuries.
Habana’s return may leave Coetzee will difficult decisions with regards to his back-three combination.
Gio Aplon will again be a contender for the fullback berth. However, Conrad Jantjes played well against the Lions. Another option would be to pick Aplon on the right wing in place of Danie Poolman.
Coetzee can afford to sleep on that one a little. The team will only be announced on Wednesday and the coach can also take the weather forecast into consideration when selecting the team.
Jantjes can add a lot of value with his tactical kicking, particularly if it’s wet.
It should also be taken into consideration that the Sharks don’t enjoy kicking. They are often prepared to carry the ball from deep inside their own territory.
The Stormers’ defence may also be tested more than in their last meeting against the Sharks. The last time the sides met the Sharks were coming off a loss to the Crusaders in London and did not have flyhalf sensation Patrick Lambie fit.
“I’m sure the Sharks will be motivated because they lost to us on their home field earlier in the tournament. The noises we hear from Durban is that they couldn’t wait to get the Hurricanes out of the way so that they could play against us,” said Coetzee.
With the Stormers only three points ahead of the Sharks at the top of the South African conference, there is clearly a lot at stake. It is therefore a great opportunity for the Stormers to stretch their lead, but similarly the Sharks will look to regain the initiative in the conference.
There is little chance of a try-fest with so much at stake.
“I don’t think we’ll see a festival of tries,” said Coetzee.
“It’s going to be tough and almost like a test – a very tactical game. It’s all about winning, especially this weekend.”