Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Stormers will be boosted on Monday by the return from Japan of their first choice flyhalf Peter Grant.
The pivot’s Japanese club, Kobe Kobelco Steelers, lost their All Japan Championship semi-final to the Suntory Sungoliath team at the weekend, thus freeing Grant to be back in time to take his place in the Stormers No 10 jersey against the Lions on Saturday.
The Stormers start their Super Rugby season a week after all the other teams because they had a bye on the opening weekend. This year the teams enjoying their bye get four points while they rest, a curious rule which most commentators seemed unaware of until this weekend, when the second day of the competition started with the South African conference log reflecting that the Stormers had four log points after no matches.
But it is important for the Stormers to get their season off to a winning start, particularly as they are starting at home, and the return of Grant comes at the right time for coach Allister Coetzee, who admits he is a bit nervous about having his team make their entry into the competition 80 minutes after his opponents have.
“That is a concern as the Lions will have had a competitive 80 minutes against the Bulls behind them, but it is something we have been working on managing,” said Coetzee last week.
The Stormers took the first couple of days of last week off so they could enjoy their bye before switching on again in mid-week.
“It’s a difficult one for while the players do have to rest when the bye week comes because this is going to be such a long season, they are also all anxious to get the season started.”
Coetzee said that he would start with Grant even if “he returns only on Tuesday” from Japan, but while the coach has confidence in Grant’s ability to just fit back into the Stormers systems at short notice, it is a risk.
There is a wide chasm between the intensity of the Japanese championship and Super Rugby, and although Grant was closely monitored by computer link-up by the Stormers conditioning staff over the past few weeks, there is nothing that Grant could have done to replicate a match situation.
Further good news for the Stormers is that Gio Aplon looks set to be over his injury problems and with Jaque Fourie progressing well as he returns to training following a long lay-off, the Stormers will have mostly a full squad to choose from for their first competition match.