Preparation for the 2009 Vodacom Super 14 commenced at the Vodacom Stormers High Performance Centre in Bellville on Monday 5 January.
Vodacom Stormers head coach Rassie Erasmus was working with a large squad, including many youngsters from the Western Province, when the team concluded their pre-season conditioning phase on Friday 19 December 2008. The squad and management were afforded a two week break over the festive season, but players continued to keep their conditioning targets on par in their free time.
Whilst Erasmus admits to never really resting, he did enjoy his time off with his wife and twin daughters. “Yes, we did have a bit of a break. It was great to get away with the family – we had a lovely holiday in Jeffrey’s Bay.”
“Day one went very well, we slotted straight into our normal work programme,” said Erasmus from the High Performance Centre on Tuesday morning. “There’s a positive spirit and with a few extra players in the squad, there are youngsters with opportunities to prove themselves in this environment.”
Erasmus is not yet willing to name a squad and some media reports towards the end of last year indicated that he may indeed have a trick or two up his sleeve. “Players are still being evaluated. I’m looking at some options and combinations.”
In 2008, Erasmus often utilised Schalk Brits as a looseforward off the bench, whilst Tiaan Liebenberg started as hooker. With Liebenberg now playing for French club Toulon, Brits is expected to start as first choice hooker. Allister Coetzee also experimented with Sireli Naqelevuki at centre during the Absa Currie Cup, but whether Erasmus will break up the successful partnership of Bobo and De Villiers established in 2008 is to be seen. Bobo had surgery on his shoulder in September 2008 and whilst he is still completing final stages of rehabilitation, Erasmus has all players available for selection.
Erasmus will also have the services of Percy Montgomery to back up the inform Conrad Jantjes at fullback, as well as an additional flyhalf in Willem de Waal, lock Hilton Lobberts and loooseforward Duane Vermeulen, compared to this time last year.
A squad will be submitted to SANZAR mid January and the first indication of what the 2009 season holds will be when the Vodacom Stormers take on Saracens at Newlands on Sunday 25 January at 4pm. Ticket details and information will be announced next week.
Fans will also get the opportunity to meet and mingle with the team at their annual Kick-off Party at Newlands on Wednesday 28 January 2009. The event will be hosted by the team’s official supporters club, Club Newlands, and bookings can be made by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.