The Vodacom Stormers players are in good physical shape and anxious to play their first game of the season.
That was the message from assistant coach Allister Coetzee this week. The Stormers play their first friendly of the season on Sunday 25 January at Newlands, when they tackle English Premier League side Saracens.
Coetzee, who experienced his first season with the Stormers last year when they narrowly missed out on a semifinal berth, said the coaching staff is very happy with the fitness and conditioning levels. “The guys are fit and they have started to make contact in training. They cannot wait to play a fully-fledged game.
“They have worked hard thus far and they must get credit for their commitment. The Springboks like Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers slotted in nicely and everybody is keen to contribute and make a success of our campaign.”
Coetzee said the Western Province players and management team were very disappointed after failing to reach the semi-finals of the Currie Cup competition last year. There was a benefit though, as they could start preparing for the Super 14 much earlier.
“It was not ideal that our Currie Cup campaign came to a premature end because we wanted to be in the semis and the final. The positive thing about that situation was that we could go into a really good conditioning phase. We had a good five weeks of conditioning and a nice break and now we are back at work and things are going well.”
The coach said the Stormers had a good contact session against Maties last week and they will have another contact session against Ikeys.
Looking at playing personnel Coetzee said they were reasonably happy with the squad at their disposal. That is why they did not go on a huge shopping spree during the off-season. “There wasn’t much wrong last year – we missed the semis by one point so it wasn’t a case of wholesale changes in terms of personnel.
“We just want to build on last year’s performances. Duane Vermeulen is a fantastic player to have in your squad and Hilton Lobberts could mean a lot to this group. Paul Bosch was the outstanding player in last year’s Varsity Cup competition and we see a lot of potential in him.”
Coetzee admitted that lock is a position that could give them headaches but expressed confidence in the ability of veteran AJ Venter and newcomer Lobberts to step up to the mark if needed. Adriaan Fondse and Andries Bekker are the other locks in the squad.
“Maybe we are a bit thin as far as the lock position is concerned, but you will never have the great depth you want in every position. Fondse has proven himself last year and we will consider Hilton as four lock, while AJ would be the backup at five. He is experienced and will add value at lock.”
The former Eastern Province scrumhalf was not too perturbed about the injury to flyhalf Willem de Waal.
“He is unlucky, but Peter Grant is looking good on the training field and Joe Pietersen is showing the experience he gained at 10 last year and he is training with a lot of confidence. Willem will be ready before the start of the competition.”