Stormers wary of ‘bye slumber’

    2012-03-13 15:13
    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Considering the increasingly punishing schedule that characterises Super Rugby, you would think a bye weekend would bring with it various freshening merits.

    Strangely this has not always been the case and the Stormers, in particular, seem concerned about a tendency to come off a week’s rest stale rather than slick.

    “In the past we often haven’t played well after a bye – we want to rectify that (against the Blues at Newlands on Friday night),” acting captain Jean de Villiers told a media briefing on Tuesday.

    Probed further, the experienced Springbok midfielder said the team could not pinpoint specific reasons for this phenomenon, although it may be no bad thing that it is at least on their minds.

    Last year, the best-performing SA conference side and semi-finalists had the rather loathed, essentially useless first-round bye, which meant they only got stuck into the competition at Newlands in the second week and had an almighty battle to subdue the Lions, already up and running in the competition, 19-16 with a stuttering performance.

    Perhaps De Villiers is forgetting that when they had their second bye later in the campaign, they signalled their return to duty by producing one of their most compelling games of the season in whipping the Sharks 32-12.

    But the previous season, the last under the old round-robin format, the Stormers did falter immediately after a week’s rest, losing their first tour game 16-15 to the limited Western Force, and the same happened the year before when they were beaten by the Crusaders after a bye week.

    So there is certainly a bit of a history of problems for them coming out of a break, with some sharpness possibly surrendered inadvertently as a result -- even if a bye must do wonders for bodily “recovery”.

    This season’s second Stormers bye will come, fairly handily, in early May after completion of their Antipodean tour engagements against the Highlanders, Crusaders, Reds and Force.

    The Stormers predictably named a side for the Blues encounter featuring Peter Grant at flyhalf rather than the relative rookie Gary van Aswegen, although the remainder of their line-up retains a pleasingly settled look for the time being.

    All of the rest of the match-day 22 is unchanged from the combination that edged out the Sharks 15-12 at the death, courtesy of then-substitute Grant’s awkward-angled, last-gasp penalty.

    Coach Allister Coetzee told the briefing the place-kicking duty for Friday’s game against the New Zealanders would only be finalised after the captain’s practice on Thursday, although it is possible that Grant and Joe Pietersen will again share duties depending on field position.

    “The Blues are a powerful side, with lots of All Blacks, and we expect a physical onslaught ... we believe Peter can help us cope with that.”

    The Stormers are a bit like the Sharks in being boosted by the knowledge that a few injured players are in gradual comeback mode: lock enforcer Rynhardt Elstadt is ready for Vodacom Cup activity and Deon Carstens, their Bok prop signing from Saracens, will apparently get some 20 minutes at that level in the tighthead position this weekend.

    Coetzee also told Sport24 that captain Schalk Burger’s rehabilitation process was on track, meaning that he ought to feature at some stage when the Stormers tour Australasia in early April.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing



    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



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