Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The familiar theme of much of the Super Rugby season for DHL Stormers fans won’t be repeated this week – Peter Grant won’t be bracketed with anyone when the team is announced and he will definitely face the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday.
Those who read the newspapers and internet sites, listen to the radio or watch television to get their information will know what is being referred to by familiar theme.
Ever since Grant was injured in the seventh round game against the Reds at Newlands, the build-up to matches involving the Stormers has been dominated by the “will he or won’t he” question.
Of course, the fact that Stormers coach Allister Coetzee up until last week made a habit of giving Grant until Friday to prove his fitness should have told its own story.
Given that for much of that time Grant hadn’t played for a while, the prospect of him suddenly being cleared to play on the basis of one captain’s run was virtually zero.
Fielding a flyhalf who hadn’t been training with the rest of the team all week would have been crazy, and starting with one who hadn’t run with the team for a couple of weeks would have been tantamount to suicide.
But it doesn’t appear there are any games or charades being played by the Stormers coaches in the build-up to Saturday’s crucial match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Coetzee says that Grant is 100% ready to go.
“Peter has gone through all the tests in the latter stages of last week and is 100 percent. He could have played against the Bulls at a push,” said Coetzee.
“He did his kicking out of hand and his kicking to goal without any pain or discomfort. So he has come through that and is ready to go. It is appropriate timing. I haven’t taken short cuts with him. It has been done properly.”
Coetzee is right when he says he has done it properly. Bringing Grant back too quickly could have led to him aggravating his ankle injury, which could have meant him missing the play-off games that lie ahead.
It must have been a massive temptation to bring Grant back against the Bulls, and there can be no doubt that his absence probably cost the Stormers a win.
But then, although the match was important for the Stormers in that it could have secured them automatic qualification for the semi-finals with one match to go, thus reducing the pressure for the Bloemfontein match, their situation was never as desperate as it was for those teams fighting to stay alive in the competition and a play-off place was already assured. So Coetzee was correct to take a long-term view and maybe err on the side of caution.
One of the big positives for the Stormers in Grant returning is that it enables Coetzee to choose Dewaldt Duvenage at scrumhalf as he won’t need to double as flyhalf cover – at least not to the extent that he did when Kurt Coleman was wearing the No 10.
The early indications are that Ricky Januarie will make way for Duvenage for a match that the Stormers need to just win to ensure a top two finish and a bye week in the first round of the Super Rugby Finals Series.
The importance of Grant's presence to the Stormers is also underlined by the fact that he was a constant throughout the six match winning sequence that started the season.
In his last appearance though he started solidly before imploding quite spectacularly against the Chiefs in the first match of the Stormers' overseas tour.