Stormers to fine-tune in derby

    2014-02-14 14:36

    Cape Town - While the 2014 Super Rugby season starts in earnest this weekend, the Stormers will be fine-tuning their squad in a warm-up match against neighbours Boland in Wellington on Saturday at 17:00.

    The Stormers' Super Rugby opening-round bye means they an extra week to prepare although most of their first-choices will be looking on from the sidelines.

    Only a handful of players named in their run-on XV this weekend have Super Rugby experience and they are the ones in need of game time ahead of next week's fixture against the Lions in Johannesburg.

    The Stormers-Boland clash is an annual pre-season fixture and, given the derby element, it is usually fiercely contested in searing summer temperatures.

    Boland are always highly motivated and have produced some heroic performances over the years against the region's 'Big Brother'.

    Earlier this week, the Springbok coaching staffers Pieter de Villiers (scrum) and Louis Koen (kicking) worked with the Boland squad and that should boost the confidence in their ranks.

    The support is equally ferocious on the terraces as locals celebrate the only time of the year when a Super Rugby team comes to the Winelands town.

    Hooker Tiaan Liebenberg will lead the Stormers' untried combination which is better equipped upfront. Alongside Liebenberg are Springbok Pat Cilliers and the promising loosehead Oliver Kebble.

    "Kebble demolished every prop he came up against in last year's under-21 competition," coach Allister Coetzee said.

    "As a prop he can pass a ball 30 metres and make tackles on defence."

    There are a few rookie forwards, like flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who would do well to impress since the chances are good that they could make it on to substitutes' bench in Johannesburg.

    Apart from Kebble, the highly-rated lock Ruan Botha's sound performances will ensure they move up in the squad's pecking order.

    "Players like Tiaan and Pat will bring experience to the party while it will be exciting to see youngsters Oli and Notshe get starts this weekend," said Coetzee.

    Along the backline, the three-quarters EW Viljoen, Kyle Lombard, Michael van der Spuy and Devon Williams have never played Super Rugby but that could soon change since the depth of player reserves has been sorely tested by the growing injury list.

    "For new faces like EW Viljoen and Justin Phillips, this is an exciting opportunity, both for us as coaches and the players."

    Phillips is last year's SA Schools scrumhalf and starts out on the bench.

    Established scrumhalves Nic Groom and Louis Schreuder have been rested and WP under-21 scrumhalf Godlen Masimla will work the base of the scrum.

    With all those greenhorns in the backline, fullback Jaco Taute and flyhalf Gary van Aswegen will be the ones to keep things organised.

    This could be a challenging prospect since Boland may resort to spoiling tactics, as they are likely to be starved of possession from first-phase play.

    Van Aswegen feels that the bigger challenge will be for the Stormers to stay with the game plan.

    "These friendlies are important because we want to execute what we did in training," said Van Aswegen.

    "It is a chance for us to grow as a team and build momentum for the Super Rugby season."

    Ab Davids, Boland coach, hopes his team will not to be overawed by the occasion.

    "I don't want my players to think about the Stormers," said Davids.

    "I would like them to just think about their own game.

    "First prize for us would be to break down the Stormers' defence, because that's the soul of their team.

    "I'm also expecting them to use more high kicks more than they usually do and would like to be competitive at the breakdowns and match the Stormers for physicality."

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