Stormers to get fresh spark soon
Cape Town – Hang tough for the time being ... useful attacking reinforcements aren’t too far away.
That is a message the Stormers might do well to bank for the remainder of this month, as their run-in to the Super Rugby playoffs – provided they can stay realistically in the hunt – should be marked at different times during May by the infusion of at least two influential backline members of Western Province’s victorious 2014 Currie Cup campaign.
Slippery wing Seabelo Senatla gave them vital early oomph in the competition, although he also swapped loyalty by agreement to the SA Sevens squad in the HSBC World Series, whilst utility back Jaco Taute gave plenty more service to the cause en route to the silverware in late October.
The last-named player settled pretty well into regular deployment at inside centre, including playing there in the showpiece fixture against his former Golden Lions outfit at Newlands.
Taute, still only 24 and a three-cap Springbok in 2012, has seen undesirably limited Super Rugby action since his switch from Highveld climes to the Stormers/WP in 2013, mainly because he tore his anterior cruciate ligament rather gruesomely against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in early April that year, and it significantly impeded his progress in the Cape subsequently.
He has been patiently recuperating from another knee setback in pre-season this year, but after a push-back last month of his expected return date to full training, Sport24 understands that he will finally be ready for contention again not long after the Stormers get back from their overseas leg later this month.
No specific match has been suggested by management yet for his potential comeback, but it may well be the first assignment next month (May 2) when the Stormers again visit Free State Stadium and he could get the opportunity to break his mini-hoodoo at the venue.
If that is the case, it would also give the franchise some five further remaining ordinary-season matches in which to call on his undoubted, versatile skills.
Apart from being able to step into either centre berth, he is an attractive fullback option; the gutsy but diminutive Cheslin Kolbe has been doing duty regularly at No 15 but takes a physical battering against some of the Australasian back-three juggernauts and could probably do with a rotational break at some point which might also rekindle his X-factor with ball in hand.
At 1.91m and 96kg, Taute provides significantly taller timber in the last line of defence.
Senatla, as reported on Sport24 several weeks ago, remains committed to the Blitzbokke for the two remaining legs of the latest Sevens World Series in Glasgow and London; the latter tournament is contested over the weekend of May 16 and 17.
But then he is free to resume his equally budding XVs career with the Stormers – which possibly puts him in the frame for their last four games of ordinary season plus playoffs if they make it that far.
The 22-year-old from Welkom is currently the leading try-scorer in the Series, with 39 to his credit, some way ahead of second-placed Savenaca Rawaca of Fiji (32).
South Africa continue to top the overall standings.
After a promising start to the Super Rugby campaign, the Stormers have receded to mid-table after three defeats in succession, and it is again not exactly raining tries for them this year: they average just beneath two a game with 13 from seven outings so far, putting them joint ninth in that category alongside the Bulls and Rebels.
It is only just above half the tally amassed by the Crusaders, who boast 25 although their figure was hugely inflated when they notched eight in last Saturday’s rout of the porous Sharks in Durban.
A hungry Senatla and Taute could be just the ticket for rectifying things on that front, as the Stormers have been quite stretched for depth both in midfield and among the back three and not had the luxury of freshening much in those positions.
Now their current troops just need to ensure the side still has an interest in the title by the time the pair spice up the mix ... *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing