Midfield boost for Stormers
Johannesburg - The Stormers look set to avoid a potential midfield injury crisis for Saturday’s Super Rugby opener against the Bulls as Springbok Damian de Allende looks set to play.
According to the supersport.com website, De Allende has been out since the first warm-up game against the SWD Eagles two weeks ago after suffering a minor quadriceps tear in George.
His absence from the playing field was always described as a precautionary measure, but coach Allister Coetzee was nonetheless sweating over De Allende’s availability because the Stormers will already be starting the season two men down at centre.
Jean de Villiers is out for the entire campaign with the leg injury he suffered leading the Springboks in their last game of 2014 against Wales in Cardiff, while Jaco Taute, who played inside centre for Western Province when they won the Currie Cup last year, is set to be sidelined for another month at least.
Huw Jones, a graduate from last year’s Western Province under-21 team, was in good form when he made his first Stormers start against the Cheetahs recently, but Loftus against the Bulls represents a tough place for a young player to make his Super Rugby debut. He would be better off being introduced off the bench, if he is to feature at all, than as a member of the starting line-up.
Further good news for the Stormers is that vice-captain Juan de Jongh appears to be over the stomach bug that was troubling him and keeping him from training last week.
Springboks Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr, neither of whom featured in the pre-season games because of injury and illness respectively, are expected to be fit for Loftus, but Coetzee may well want to introduce one or both of them off the bench rather than as members of the starting team.
Lack of match sharpness could be a Stormers problem in the early season as several top players have had limited involvement in the onfield warm-up phase, with the Stormers side that beat the Boland Cavaliers at the Cape Town Stadium the other day effectively being a Vodacom Cup team.
Ruan Botha, so impressive at No 5 for WP last year until he was ruled out with injury, has been back in training in the last few weeks but has yet to play. It is likely he will start against the Bulls, with blindside flanker Michael Rhodes moving to the second row, a role he is no stranger to, after halftime.
A full assessment of the Stormers injury situation will be delivered at a media briefing at the HPC in Bellville on Monday afternoon. The team for the Bulls clash is to be named on Thursday.