Cape Town - The Sharks haven’t finalised their team yet and there are likely to be brackets in some key areas, but the Stormers aren't too concerned about which players make up the visiting combination.
They know that regardless of the identity of the individuals in the opposition line-up, Saturday's Super Rugby derby at Newlands is going to be a tough and bruising match with not much between the sides.
The Stormers will be without captain Schalk Burger
for this important clash. But of the two teams, the Sharks are likely to be the more depleted, with regular No 8 Ryan Kankowski joining
quite a substantial list of Sharks forwards who are unavailable for the Newlands clash.
Under normal circumstances the loss of Kankowski might not have been felt so badly by the Sharks as they would have had Willem Alberts
or Jean Deysel to fall back on, but while Alberts may yet play off the bench, the former Lions player’s driving presence is unlikely to be as influential as when he is fully fit and has his momentum up.
But Stormers coach Allister Coetzee
was not being taken in by the fact that the Sharks will be depleted.
“The Super Rugby competition has become all about depth and every franchise has made a concerted effort to improve depth. If you don’t do that you don’t survive as in a long season like this there will be injuries,” said Coetzee.
“We made a big push in last year’s Currie Cup to bring young players through and grow the depth available to us, and we know the Sharks did the same. Someone like Marcell Coetzee, their flanker, is a young player just like our own Siya Kolisi and they both did really well at under-21 level and in last year’s Currie Cup.
“If you look at what the two franchises have available, both in terms of starting team and what is in the squad, then you realise there isn’t much in it and I expect it to be a close game on Saturday. It’s an inter-conference clash, and everyone seems to agree the South African conference is going to be particularly tough this year.
“It’s important to win the derbies as there is an eight or 10 point swing in it. If you lose you don’t only relinquish the four or five points you could have got for winning but you also give one of your main rivals log points that they can use to open up a gap on you.”
Skipper Jean de Villiers had a similar attitude and said that the fact it was a derby match would mean a ramp up in both intensity and physicality from last week’s match against the Hurricanes.
“We know that the Sharks were disappointed last year when we beat them, but I am not sure we were more physical than they were. They dished it out as much as they took it, as is usually the case in matches between these teams,” said De Villiers.
“We know that the Sharks are a physical team and that teams tend to get stung by defeat, as no-one likes losing. So we are expecting a bit of a backlash from the Sharks both from their loss at Loftus last week and because of what they remember about last year’s game. Make no mistake, we are under no illusions that we are going to be sore on Sunday morning.”
De Villiers added that he had been impressed with JP Pietersen’s switch to outside centre for the Sharks.
“We haven’t seen their team yet but they have made a few switches of position this season. To my mind JP is the most underrated player in the country. There have been times when I have been dumbfounded at the way that JP has been written off by people when he has been involved with the Springboks,” said De Villiers.
“I don’t think people realise what a seriously good player JP is. He is a special player and I thought he played well at outside centre last week. We also know Tim Whitehead well. He left us to get more game-time, and he is getting that game time and will doubtless be looking forward to making the most of the opportunity by playing against his old team-mates.”Teams:Stormers:
15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Gerhard van den HeeverSharks:
Referee: Mark Lawrence