Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Cape Town - Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has resisted any temptation he may have had to rotate his selections for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby match against the Lions in Johannesburg.
With a platform having been created through three wins in three starts, and the Lions set to be severely depleted at Coca-Cola Park, there was a view from outside of the camp that this might be an opportunity to test a few combinations and give fringe players who have yet to get a start this season a chance to get in a sizeable proportion of game time.
However Coetzee believes his team has been making steady progress through the past few weeks and feels that the best way to ensure that the progress continues and the graph continues on its trend is to keep changes to a minimum.
So the team that beat the Blues 27-17 at Newlands last week has been retained en bloc, with Coetzee stressing that the respect he has for his opponents played a big part in his decision not to change anything.
“In our minds we are going up to play against the Currie Cup champions and we remember that they beat us in the semifinal last year,” said Coetzee.
One player who was pressing hard for a recall after an impressive return to rugby after a long injury lay-off through the Vodacom Cup last weekend was Rynhardt Elstadt.
Coetzee said at the start of the week that he was considering bringing Elstadt back into the squad in preparation for next week’s tough home derby against the Bulls, but in the end he decided the lock would gain more from playing a full match this weekend than playing off the bench in Johannesburg.
“Elstadt is ready to go and we want him to get 60 to 80 minutes of action, which as I said earlier in the week is something that can be facilitated better by playing him in the Vodacom Cup,” said the coach.
“The Vodacom Cup provides a better opportunity to get a player fully match fit than just playing him off the bench, where he may get minimal chance to play. We also want to give Andries Bekker the chance to play a full 80 minutes as he continues his comeback from an injury lay-off. With Duane Vermeulen also starting to pick up momentum, the players who suffered long-term injuries are all showing pleasing progress.”
Elstadt was of course one of those long-term injuries, and given the way he played last week against the Sharks XV in Durban, the EP Kings, who Western Province play at City Park on Saturday afternoon, can expect to feel the full wrath of the frustration one of the stars of last year’s Stormers effort must be feeling at being sidelined.
Skipper Jean de Villiers joined Coetzee in scotching any talk of the Lions being underestimated, and he said his recollection of the embarrassment of last year’s loss in the domestic semifinal would be a motivating factor.
“It would be extremely dangerous to underestimate any team in this competition. Even when a team has injury problems, that team is always the best available combination that franchise can put into the field, and the Lions will be hitting us with everything they’ve got at the weekend,” said De Villiers.
“The Lions were deserved winners of the Currie Cup last year and they outplayed us last October, so we have the utmost respect for them and the rugby they can produce.”Teams:
15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 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 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever