Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – A trio of utility backs offer fill-in options for
the Stormers if rangy right wing Kobus van Wyk is officially ruled out of the
selection mix for Saturday’s key Super Rugby derby against the Bulls at
It could be a close call for coach Allister Coetzee and his
assistants between Johnny Kotze, Pat Howard and Huw Jones – although there may
even be an off-chance that versatile Springbok Jaco Taute is ready slightly
ahead of schedule for fresh combat after a lengthy, enforced absence.
The franchise will issue a medical update on Tuesday, and it
seems highly unlikely that Van Wyk will be in the frame after hobbling off in
some discomfort with a knee problem in the narrow 13-6 triumph over the Force
His absence would be inconvenient as he is an important,
big-framed balancer in a Stormers back three not blessed by remarkable height
or brawn even if the other members of it, fullback Cheslin Kolbe and left wing
Dillyn Leyds, offer strengths in other ways.
The Capetonians were occasionally exposed on their
just-concluded overseas tour on defence in the wide positions whenever
confronted on the charge by some of the powerhouse wings in the ranks of
certain Australasian sides.
Diminutive Kolbe lacks absolutely nothing in courage and
played very well in an all-round capacity against the Force, but it is a stark
reality that even when he presents his full, 1.71m and 73kg frame as an
obstacle in such situations, he will be “bounced” every now and then.
Fortunately – and especially if Van Wyk is ruled out – the
Bulls don’t have an especially beefy back three themselves, although all of
Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson and a resurgent Francois Hougaard are in decent,
But if the Stormers nevertheless feel a need to go
like-for-like in the expected Van Wyk void, they could do worse than hand a
maiden start to Pat Howard, who looked both an elusive and hard-running
character in several appearances during Western Province’s Currie Cup-winning
season last year.
The 23-year-old undoubtedly has the physical credentials
(1.87m, 100kg) if they want a relatively imposing specimen at No 14, although
both Kotze and Jones are more familiar with current structures following fair
respective game-time for the Stormers in recent weeks and aren’t midgets,
Former Michaelhouse star Howard has gained some extra
street-wisdom in a stint abroad with Munster, and will join English Premiership
outfit Northampton Saints after the 2015 Currie Cup, but that doesn’t preclude
the possibility that he may be the most attractive pick for present
Taute could be the dark horse for a swift recall if he gets
the medical nod; there was talk a few weeks back that he would probably return
to the squad after completion of the overseas leg, although the fullback/centre
will be rather short of a gallop at this stage.
If ready, he might be a better fit at No 15 than wing, which
could mean the swift Kolbe shifting to a wider station: after his success in
the last line of a heroic defence against the Force, however, a switch of roles
for the pocket dynamo might not be advisable.
The Stormers will be able to reintroduce rested A-grade
Springbok Duane Vermeulen both as captain and No 8 for the derby, so smart
money perhaps suggests a loose trio – bearing in mind the Bulls’ traditional
physicality – made up of him, the ceaselessly energetic Schalk Burger and Siya
Kolisi, even as Nizaam Carr continues to claw his way back to optimal personal
They name the match-day squad on Thursday.
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