Pietersen to miss Bulls clash?

2012-05-30 12:20

Johannesburg - The chances of the DHL Stormers beating the Bulls in their big Vodacom Super Rugby derby at the weekend appeared to be slipping down a precipitous path into the Jukskei River on Wednesday morning as it emerged that Joe Pietersen is unlikely to wear the No 15 jersey.

Pietersen missed the match against the Sharks with a back strain and while some people were excited about the attacking contribution of Gio Aplon in a second half when the Stormers threw the ball around after they had already lost the contest, his kicking game and safety under the high ball were notable for their absence.

So Pietersen, who is in the frame as a challenger for fullback in the Springbok team to play England, is one of the last players the Stormers management would like to see being a doubtful starter.

It is in the kicking game that the Bulls have their most noted advantage over the Stormers, with the teams well matched otherwise.

At Loftus the field kicking becomes even more of a factor because of the distances the ball travels in the rarified Highveld atmosphere, and if Pietersen is forced to cry off again, it could be a telling blow to the Stormers’ prospects.

But it is not as though Aplon hasn’t excelled at Loftus as a fullback before. It will be recalled that the Springbok stood up impressively and courageously to a concerted high-ball challenge from the Bulls when the Cape team broke a long drought in this competition at that venue last season.

His task was helped that day though by the competitiveness of the Stormers' forward effort, with for once the Stormers getting the better of the forward exchanges and ensuring that the Bulls didn’t always have the front-foot ball that they needed in order to launch their effective kick attacks.

And thanks to the weird decision by Saru that the national under-20 team takes preference when it comes to selection this week, the Stormers' chances in that department have sustained a bit of a blow too.

But at least the likely replacement Deon Carstens, who is expected to wear the No 1 jersey ahead of Wicus Blaauw, boasts Springbok experience. And it could be argued that just lately Kitshoff has started to show signs of wear and tear after starting every game this season.

Neither Carstens nor Blaauw though boast much recent match practice, though Carstens has played a few more Vodacom Cup games than Blaauw has.

The Stormers management have confirmed that captain Jean de Villiers sat out training on Tuesday with a runny nose while Andries Bekker also didn’t take part because of the pains that were the legacy of the concerted Sharks' physical assault against his team in Durban last weekend. However both are expected to be fit for Loftus.

The team for the match will be announced at a Stormers press conference at the High Performance Centre at lunchtime on Wednesday.