Stormers will wait on Aplon

    2013-03-25 12:40

    Gavin Rich - SuperSport

    Johannesburg - The Crusaders will ride into Cape Town this week without Dan Carter, who has stayed in New Zealand to be at the birth of his first child, but the Stormers have problems of their own building up to what for both teams could be a season defining Vodacom Super Rugby clash.

    According to the website, the Stormers have beaten the two top teams on the log in their last two matches – the Chiefs two weeks ago and the Brumbies this past weekend – so can consider themselves to be flying high after two opening defeats at away venues. However, like the Crusaders, who have an identical record, the Cape team needs to keep winning in order to avert the intense pressure that will result from a third defeat.

    The Stormers are arguably under more pressure because they’re at home, but the Crusaders have to travel to Durban for their second match in South Africa, and on the evidence of the Sharks’ impressive bounce-back annihilation of the Rebels, that won’t be easy. The Crusaders would rather not go there with it being a must-win.

    The Sharks also loom large in the Stormers’ future – the return derby in Cape Town is set for 13 April, after which the Stormers leave on their four-match overseas tour. So it’s an interesting and intense phase of the season, and as Stormers coach Allister Coetzee put it after his men had seen off the Brumbies 35-22, he could not have asked for a tougher first half to the competition (the Stormers’ match between the Crusaders one and the Sharks is against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein).

    What the Stormers can do without is injuries, and they will be hoping that the expected return of rugged lock Eben Etzebeth at the beginning of next month will not be off-set by further withdrawals. Bryan Habana is already out for a minimum of another eight weeks, and there would have been concerns when Gio Aplon went down against the Brumbies that they might lose another wing.

    Aplon, who scored a brilliant try earlier in the match and continues to punch above his weight, bravely went in to challenge big Brumbies No 8 Fotu Auelua but he came off second best in the tackle and was left prone on the Newlands turf. His condition looked serious enough for some of his opponents to start gesticulating to referee Glen Jackson to stop play.

    Aplon was helped from the field and will have to await the results of concussion tests before he is cleared to face the Crusaders. Gerhard van den Heever was in excellent form at the weekend and brings the weight that the Stormers need in the back three, and Jaco Taute is available to start at fullback, but Coetzee will be hoping that he doesn’t lose game-breaker Aplon for too long.

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