More injury woes for Stormers
Cape Town - The struggling Stormers are experiencing further injury woes, with several players on the doubtful list for a clash against the Reds at Newlands on Saturday that is of academic interest only to South African fans, reports the supersport.com website.
Of course former Springbok coach Jake White and his Brumbies, and the Waratahs that beat them this past weekend, may have different ideas about the irrelevance of the game. A Stormers win, to go with the one that the Cheetahs scored against them last week, would significantly impact on the Reds’ chances of challenging for honours in what has become a tight Australian conference battle as the top teams flounder while the Waratahs hit top form.
There is potential tournament spoilers is what the Stormers are from now on, as that is the most they can get out of the season. Taking a more negative view, they do need to win a few games for more than just pride, for the Kings will move into range if they beat the Cheetahs this weekend and the Stormers lose.
That shouldn’t be on coach Allister Coetzee’s mind right now though. He has to figure out what the remaining matches of the season mean, and on Monday he made it clear he would be using it as an opportunity to blood youngsters for next year. As it turns out, injuries for this week may force his hand, with both tighthead props, Pat Cilliers and Frans Malherbe, understood to be on the wounded list.
They’re both young for props so it’s not as if Coetzee needs to blood a new player in the No 3 jersey, and if both Malherbe and Cilliers are ruled out, we should see Brok Harris return to the position that was his for several seasons.
But Andries Bekker has returned from Australia with niggles that apparently may require rest, and that could just play into Coetzee’s hand as he needs to be looking at his second row combination for 2014. Bekker, the inform player in the Stormers set-up during a disappointing season, is continuing his career in Japan at the end of the current Super Rugby campaign.
After the great service he has given the Stormers over the years, Coetzee will want to give Bekker the opportunity to go out with a last hurrah against the Bulls in the big home derby match that finishes the Stormers’ season, but in the meantime no harm will be done by having Eben Etzebeth and De Kock Steenkamp playing together.
Steenkamp was in outstanding form before an injury against the Blues ruled him out for the last two matches of the overseas tour. He is back in the mix for this week and if Bekker is out he will be an easy swop. However, if Bekker is out it will mean he joins Duane Vermeulen and Rynhardt Elstadt on the sidelines, which does significantly rob the Stormers of what the New Zealand commentators love to refer to “tall timber” in the lineouts.
Another player who returned from New Zealand and Australia feeling the effects of a hard tour is Springbok centre Juan de Jongh, which may mean Damian de Allende returns to the starting team. There are also a couple of talented young centres in the region that have been part of the Western Province Vodacom Cup campaign who could come into contention.
For the purposes of growing the depth will be well served by giving fringe players a run, but the big question revolves around how patient the Stormers supporters will be given the unhappiness in the Cape at the Stormers results so far in a season where they have lost seven of the 11 games. Changes to any team take time to be effective and new players require time to settle.
Perhaps this is a time for Coetzee to be honest and make it clear that the results have become secondary to player and combination growth for the remaining month of the 2013 Super Rugby season. If he does that, then he can make whatever changes he likes - though that might not go down well with the other teams that want the Stormers to be spoilers for the remainder of the competition.
The players definitely out of the Reds game at this stage are hooker Scarra Ntubeni (hamstring), hooker/flank Deon Fourie (ribs) and Cilliers (ankle). A full medical report will be released at a press conference following the Stormers’ first training session since their return from tour at the HPC in Bellville on Tuesday afternoon.