Johannesburg - Argentinian lock Manuel Carizza was not part of the Stormers squad that left Cape Town on Sunday for their Christchurch destination ahead of a tough overseas tour, but they should have their confidence significantly boosted by the availability of another player who wasn’t on the flight out.
According to the supersport.com website, Peter Grant was named in the tour group when it was announced on Saturday, with the proviso that when he was available to play would depend on when his Japanese club, Kobe, were knocked out of their competition.
What coach Allister Coetzee was praying for came to pass, and Grant will be there to greet them when they arrive in New Zealand on Monday.
It would appear unlikely that Coetzee will rush Grant into the starting team when there is such a short turn-around time before the match against Crusaders in Christchurch.
In previous seasons when Grant has become available again, Coetzee has played him off the bench so that he can be given time to assimilate himself back into the Stormers’ playing pattern and get acquainted with any new variations.
With the Stormers appearing to have moved quite a long way now from the suffocation strategy with its strong emphasis on physical defence that saw the Stormers into the play-offs when Grant last had an extended run with the Stormers in 2012 (he was injured for most of last year and never featured beyond an appearance on the bench in the early rounds of competition), it would be wise to keep him from the No 10 jersey for now.
However, he could make a massive difference to the Stormers’ chances later on the tour, for although they won against the Hurricanes this past Friday, it was clear that they lack direction and, in the absence of the singleminded clarity that used to make them perennial challengers for the main title and twice South African conference champions, Grant’s experienced head could make a difference.
So could the return of De Kock Steenkamp, whose return to fitness should off-set the loss of Carizza, who was patchy against the Hurricanes.
The Stormers lineout was abysmal in the 19-18 win, and Steenkamp has been part of successful Stormers lineout performances in the past.
The Stormers won’t be consoled though by the knowledge that the Crusaders lineout they are up against on Friday, which is led by All Black Sam Whitelock, is one of the best in the competition.
Ruan Botha, yet another of the Western Province under-21 stars from last year who much is expected of, has been selected to travel in Carizza’s place and he should gain invaluable experience during a four match trip that in addition to the Crusaders also features games against the Chiefs, Reds and Brumbies.
Schalk Burger, a late withdrawal from the team that played against the Hurricanes, was part of the group that flew out on Sunday and Coetzee faces an interesting selection dilemma as Deon Fourie was excellent in the No 6 jersey.
Siya Kolisi also does look more at home at No 7, the jumper usually worn by Burger, than he does on the openside.
Stormers tour group: Gio Aplon, Ruan Botha, Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Demetri Catrakilis, Pat Cilliers, Kurt Coleman, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers, Rynhardt Elstadt, Deon Fourie, Peter Grant, Nic Groom, Brok Harris, Oli Kebble, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Tiaan Liebenberg, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Michael Rhodes, Louis Schreuder, De Kock Steenkamp, Sailosi Tagicabau, Jaco Taute, Kobus van Wyk, Duane Vermeulen.