De Jongh’s return adds to options
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Cape Town - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck will be pleased to have Juan de Jongh back in his selection mix for Saturday’s big Super Rugby dress rehearsal at Loftus and after last week’s game against the Sunwolves he does face a bit of a midfield dilemma.
The return of Springbok Damian de Allende has been eagerly awaited, particularly after the outstanding form he showed in the pre-season and in the first round game against the Bulls. However, since then he has spent minimal time on the field first as a legacy of an injury sustained in that Newlands clash with the Bulls and then another picked up against the Sharks soon after making an attempted comeback.
Last Saturday’s game against the Japanese team was effectively De Allende’s third comeback attempt, but unsurprisingly considering the length of his lay-off, he looked rusty and well short of the form and sharpness that Fleck will need from him in the Super Rugby quarter-final.
Having De Jongh back after he was concussed against the Cheetahs means that he can go with an all Springbok midfield, but EW Viljoen has been the form Stormers centre this year and was one of the more solid and incisive backs against the Sunwolves. Dropping him for De Jongh will also rob the Stormers of the physical stature required in an otherwise relatively small backline.
Like De Allende, De Jongh hasn’t spent much time on the field this year either, and there is no real saying what kind of form he is in as he only played briefly late in the game against the Sharks just before the June break and then got injured early in the piece against the Cheetahs.
Fleck could try De Jongh at inside centre in De Allende’s place, but is more likely to give De Allende another chance to build some momentum and pick up form. He did keep De Allende on the field against the Sunwolves for longer than he had initially intended just so that the Milnerton High School old boy could get some proper game time.
Of course the Loftus game is an excellent opportunity for the Stormers to get in some tough and pressured preparation for the following week’s home quarter-final against a Kiwi team. But Fleck admits that he hasn’t been helped by the injuries, suspensions and withdrawals that have blighted his team over the past 10 days.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe will join De Jongh in returning to the playing field this week but still out of consideration though expected back for the quarter-final are fullback SP Marais, props Oli Kebble and Ali Vermaak, two more centres in Huw Jones and Shaun Treeby, scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage and flank Kobus van Dyk.
Of those, only Marais would be a guaranteed starter for the first choice team, though all of them are good players who strengthen the depth of the match day squad and Duvenage in particular could provide a vital role from the bench or even in the starting team with his tactical brain.
Fleck will be hoping that he can settle on a midfield partnership from the likely trio that will go to Loftus – De Allende, Viljoen and De Jongh – because although Jones would bring a lot of experience after playing for Scotland, he hasn’t played since being injured in the Six Nations several months ago.
The coach does have the option of playing Viljoen on the right wing, which would bring some much needed bulk and height to the back three, and that will be much needed against Kiwi opposition. However, Cheslin Kolbe will be hard to drop after scoring a hat-trick of tries in successive matches.
Both De Jongh and Kolbe are in their final weeks with the Stormers as they will be heading overseas after Super Rugby.
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