Coetzee rues loss of Kitshoff
Cape Town - The banning of the ever-improving prop Steven Kitshoff will hit the Stormers hard on Saturday, when they are up against an All Black front row in their clash against the Crusaders at Newlands.
Kitshoff was handed a one-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Brumbies' flyhalf Matt Toomua at Newlands at the weekend, and coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday his absence would be felt.
"It's a pity he's not playing, because we're up against the All Black front row this week," said Coetzee.
"He's been playing well, but the call (by SANZAR) has been made and we have to accept it and live with it."
Kitshoff's absence opens the way for the seasoned Brok Harris to return to the Stormers' selection frame after a few outings in the Vodacom Cup competition.
He's been a mainstay in the pack in the past, bagging over 70 Super Rugby caps.
"With Steven out, it gives Harris a chance, which he deserves because he's been playing well since coming back from injury," said Coetzee.
"I am pleased with Brok's progress."
Several first-choice players sat out at the Stormers' Monday training session, but Coetzee cautioned that it was merely a "player management" decision to allow for a full recovery after the weekend's highly physical, and at times brutal, encounter with the Brumbies.
There is a concern hovering over the head of wing Gio Aplon.
"It's a normal Monday thing to manage players and making sure that when they return to training that they are 100 percent fit," said Coetzee.
"All the players used against the Brumbies are fit for selection and we're testing Gio to make sure there are no after-effects from the heavy knock he took (from Fotu Auelua).
"We want to be 100 percent certain that Gio is okay to play and once all the tests show positive results, we'll ease him back into training. We must be sure that he's not feeling any discomfort."
Coetzee was still unable to shed any light on when flanker Schalk Burger will return to action after more than a year on the sidelines.
The highly-rated lock Eben Etzebeth was about three weeks away from returning to the playing field, and would join the squad for non-contact training next week.
Springbok prop Deon Carstens's back was recovering well from an injury and Coetzee expected him to run out for the WP Vodacom Cup team in two weeks' time.
Flyhalf Peter Grant would be out of action longer than anticipated.
It looks like Coetzee will rely on scrumhalves Dewaldt Duvenage and Louis Schreuder for No 10 cover.
In the meantime, WP Vodacom Cup flyhalves Gary van Aswegen and Kurt Coleman will train with the squad, but seem unlikely to make the step up just yet.
When asked to reflect on his side's impressive display against the Brumbies, Coetzee said the team's defence and attack had started to complement each other.
"The players have started to believe in the team, as well as themselves, and that helps a lot when things get intense on the field," said Coetzee.
"We've now scored seven tries against Super Rugby's top two teams and it has helped a lot that our attack and defence have started to complement each other."
Their clash against the Crusaders at Newlands kicks off at 19:10 on Saturday.