Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – As long as Jean de Villiers,
the other link in the old firm, stays fit the Stormers can yet prosper without
Jaque Fourie in their midfield for the first time in some three years.
That is the view of former Springbok,
Canada and Western Province centre Christian Stewart.
The Newlands-based franchise, in naming
what seems a full-strength set of outside backs for the home pre-season meeting
with Currie Cup champions the Lions on Friday night, predictably paired De
Villiers with promising fellow-Springbok Juan de Jongh at centre.
Fourie, who added to a formidable triangle
of internationals in the Super Rugby conference winners’ midfield last season,
opted recently not to return for another campaign with the Stormers and instead
further his lucratively-paid career more meaningfully in Japan.
“The Stormers will clearly miss Fourie
because I believe they made better use of his attributes than South Africa did,
certainly at the last World Cup,” Stewart told Sport24 on Wednesday.
“The Bok game-plan, and also their policy
at flyhalf, meant Jaque’s skills were seldom employed to the maximum.
“He should be such a key element to any
team’s intentions: he’s the sort of player of whom any direct opponent is
usually saying ‘phew, this guy’s both bigger than me and more multi-talented
Yet for all the talk of how Fourie used to almost
instinctively call the Stormers’ defensive requirements during play, Stewart
believes 30-year-old De Villiers is just as capable of running that department,
especially being generally a little closer to the action at No 12.
“Jean has the sort of broad qualities that
could easily be taken for granted. I don’t see any special signs yet of age
affecting his game and I reckon I would still place him in my World XV – yes,
he’s that good.”
As for De Jongh, whose own opportunities
over the past two years or so have occasionally been limited at both
international and Super Rugby level by the more senior start-out partnership of
De Villiers and Fourie, Stewart said: “His time has really now come, hasn’t it?
“I am just inclined to think he is also slightly
more suited to No 12, but it really doesn’t matter because we’ve seen what he
can do (in both midfield slots).”