Stormers will wait on Aplon
Johannesburg - The Crusaders will ride into Cape Town this week without Dan Carter, who
has stayed in New Zealand to be at the birth of his first child, but
the Stormers have problems of their own building up to what for both
teams could be a season defining Vodacom Super Rugby clash.
According to the supersport.co.za website, the Stormers have beaten the two top teams on the log in their last two
matches – the Chiefs two weeks ago and the Brumbies this past weekend –
so can consider themselves to be flying high after two opening defeats
at away venues. However, like the Crusaders, who have an identical
record, the Cape team needs to keep winning in order to avert the
intense pressure that will result from a third defeat.
The Stormers are arguably under more pressure because they’re at home,
but the Crusaders have to travel to Durban for their second match in
South Africa, and on the evidence of the Sharks’ impressive bounce-back
annihilation of the Rebels, that won’t be easy. The Crusaders would
rather not go there with it being a must-win.
The Sharks also loom large in the Stormers’ future – the return derby in
Cape Town is set for 13 April, after which the Stormers leave on their
four-match overseas tour. So it’s an interesting and intense phase of
the season, and as Stormers coach Allister Coetzee put it after his men
had seen off the Brumbies 35-22, he could not have asked for a tougher
first half to the competition (the Stormers’ match between the Crusaders
one and the Sharks is against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein).
What the Stormers can do without is injuries, and they will be hoping
that the expected return of rugged lock Eben Etzebeth at the beginning
of next month will not be off-set by further withdrawals. Bryan Habana
is already out for a minimum of another eight weeks, and there would
have been concerns when Gio Aplon went down against the Brumbies that
they might lose another wing.
Aplon, who scored a brilliant try earlier in the match and continues to
punch above his weight, bravely went in to challenge big Brumbies No 8
Fotu Auelua but he came off second best in the tackle and was left prone
on the Newlands turf. His condition looked serious enough for some of
his opponents to start gesticulating to referee Glen Jackson to stop
Aplon was helped from the field and will have to await the results of
concussion tests before he is cleared to face the Crusaders. Gerhard van
den Heever was in excellent form at the weekend and brings the weight
that the Stormers need in the back three, and Jaco Taute is available to
start at fullback, but Coetzee will be hoping that he doesn’t lose
game-breaker Aplon for too long.