Johannesburg - Tiaan Liebenberg’s back problem has flared up again but that blow to DHL Western Province’s build-up to Saturday’s north/south Absa Currie Cup showdown with the Vodacom Blue Bulls has been offset by the news that as many as six top players will be returning to action this week.
The supersport.com website reports, Scarra Ntubeni is among those that will be assessed on Monday, and he will be an obvious replacement for Liebenberg at hooker should he be declared fit. Liebenberg is to undergo a scan to assess the severity of his injury but he will definitely miss the Bulls game.
The other players coming back into the system are Rynhardt Elstadt, who has been out since the early stages of Super Rugby, Brok Harris, Kurt Coleman, Jaco Taute and Ruan Botha. The latter should come in at No 5 lock, with Manuel Carizza moving to the front of the lineout as Eben Etzebeth will be the with the Boks this week.
Etzebeth only ended up playing against the Kings off the bench, with young Jean Kleyn starting the game in the starting second row, so his absence shouldn’t be too disruptive, particularly as he only trained with the side late last week.
Kobus van Wyk came off early against the Kings after suffering a head knock is apparently okay to play, so coach Allister Coetzee should have plenty of selection conundrums to think about when he considers his options for the Bulls game.
For a start, while Coleman won himself a lot of fans for the way he helped ignite the Stormers’ attacking play with his running and distribution skills in the latter stages of Super Rugby, Demetri Catrakilis’ game management skills were to the fore in the 35-16 win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth. He also showed signs of being willing to play at the gainline, with his break lining flat responsible for an early surge across the line by skipper Juan de Jongh that was disallowed because of a forward pass.
Catrakilis certainly has better goalkicking ability than Coleman, and his full house of successful kicks at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium would not have done his chances of holding onto the No 10 jersey any harm at all.
With Coetzee seemingly committed to playing Cheslin Kolbe at fullback in the early season, it will also be interesting to see if Taute will return for the Bulls game as a centre. Coetzee did mention at a press conference last week that he was looking at the possibility of playing Taute in the midfield and this week could be when that happens.