Starting role for Bezuidenhout
Cape Town - A blow to the leg that will require a precautionary rest for Deon Fourie is set to propel new Stormers recruit Martin Bezuidenhout straight into the starting team for the opening Super Rugby warm-up match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Lions hooker is on loan to the Stormers until the end of April and only arrived this weekend, and already he has impressed coach Allister Coetzee, who reminded journalists on Monday that there was nothing compelling the Stormers to let Bezuidenhout go once the frontline hookers he is standing in for are fit.
“Martin has fitted in very well in his first training sessions, he really has impressed me and it looks like he is just what we are looking for,” Coetzee told the supersport.com website.
“He has a tremendous work-rate, he’s strong in the set-pieces, and regarding his readiness to play, he has already played a game this season for the Lions. That could come in handy as we have seen from the warm-up matches other teams have played that the sides that have played already are sharper than those that haven’t.
“Martin is contracted to us until April, but there is nothing preventing us from asking him to stay on with us for longer than that once the other players have returned from injury should he impress us enough in the meantime. We see this as a great opportunity for him and I am making it one of my missions this season to ensure that the Lions get their loan players back as better players.”
Apart from Fourie, the other hooker that Bezuidenhout is standing in for is Springbok Tiaan Liebenberg, who is in a race against time to get fit ahead of the start of the new Super Rugby season, as well as the Western Province Currie Cup winning hooker Scarra Ntubeni.
Fourie, the captain of that WP side, is set to return to hooker this year after playing much of last season on the flank. However, a blow to a quadriceps muscle in training has ruled him out of the match against the Cheetahs.
“Given the situation with our hookers, we felt it best to be cautious with Deon. So he won’t be playing against the Cheetahs, he will be resting as a precautionary measure,” said the coach.
Other players to sit out training on Monday was the captain, Schalk Burger, who watched from the sidelines, Bok skipper Jean de Villiers and lock cum blindside flank Rynhardt Elstadt.
“Schalk just has a tight calf so I don’t think we have any problems there, while Jean had an operation to remove a cyst from his neck and is just a bit uncomfortable. There is no point in risking him this early. Rynhardt has been training really hard and is really eager to get back into the action but he picked up a hamstring injury last week he is battling with a bit. He should be ready to play against Boland in the next warm-up game.”
Coetzee wants all his players to see action either this week in Bloemfontein or the following week at the Cape Town Stadium (against Boland) as the Stormers are only playing two warm-up games this season.
“We see the warm-up games as the conclusion of the conditioning phase and I want to see everyone who is going to be playing in the opening match against the Bulls get game time over the next two weeks,” said Coetzee.
The Stormers-Bulls opener is on February 22 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.