Kitshoff return bolsters Stormers

2015-01-26 13:02
Steven Kitshoff (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The Stormers are slowly working towards full muster as the Vodacom Super Rugby season approaches, with another clutch of Springboks set to return to the team for Friday night’s warm-up fixture against the Toyota Cheetahs at Newlands.

According to the website, the Stormers dispensed with the SWD Eagles 34-3 in their opening game in George at the weekend, but the Cheetahs, as fellow Super Rugby participants, are considered the toughest opponent of the pre-season phase and thus the one the Cape side will consider to be the dress rehearsal for the real thing, which comes in the form of the opening Super Rugby clash with the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on 14 February.

The Stormers will play the Boland Cavaliers in another warm-up game before the Super Rugby season starts, but with the game taking place just one week before the trip to Loftus, the normal policy is to include fringe players for that fixture, plus maybe a top player or two who would only then be fully ready to play after coming back from injury.

So Allister Coetzee will field as close to possible as he can get to a full strength team for the Cheetahs game, and Boks Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi are likely additions to the group that won in George. Nizaam Carr, struck down in the early stages of the year by a virus, is likely to return only for the Boland game.

Jean Kleyn will be back in the selection mix this week too, but fellow promising young lock Ruan Botha is only set to return in another two weeks. Botha was impressive towards the end of the last Super Rugby season and also before he was injured in the Currie Cup, and is likely to be Etzebeth’s partner in the first choice second row combination.

There is plenty of depth in the position though, with Gerbrandt Grobler back in action after missing most of last season, and Argentine international Manuel Carizza is also still on the Stormers books until the end of the year. Last year there were plenty of injury disruptions at lock and coach Coetzee will be hoping that is not repeated.

Another area where the Stormers depth was tested in 2014 was prop, with first choices Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff missing for most of the year, while promising youngster Oli Kebble was also injured more than he was available. The good news there is that Kitshoff made a strong return to rugby at the weekend, and Kebble also impressed Coetzee.

“It is a long time since Kitsie last played but he did so well. I am very pleased with what I saw from the front row guys, not just Kitshoff, but also Wilco Louw when he came on, and Kebble,” said Coetzee.

“The scrums were outstanding,” he added.

It goes without saying that the Cheetahs on Friday will present the Stormers with a more searching examination of that facet of play as the serious part of the build-up gets underway. The Stormers have made a poor start to the last two Super Rugby seasons so will be placing a high premium on getting it right in the warm-up games.

Read more on:    stormers  |  steven kitshoff  |  rugby


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