DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has responded to one of the growing talking points of the Super Rugby season by moving Andries Bekker to the bench for Friday’s final tour match against the Rebels in Melbourne.
The star lock has been in outstanding form this season but there has been growing concern, and not just in Cape Town, about the amount of rugby he has played. Bekker has started every game and if he has been rested during any it is hard to recall when that was.
Up until last week’s game against the Brumbies, No8 Duane Vermeulen was in a similar position. But he played off the bench in that game, with Nick Koster getting a rare opportunity to start.
Concerns that Bekker might be playing too much increased when he suffered a back spasm after the Brumbies game. He was picked up by the television cameras at Canberra Stadium spread out on the grass wincing after the game, and later stretching himself up to his full height in some discomfort as medical staff attended to him.
Fortunately there was no serious injury, but maybe it was a timely warning to the Stormers, who have decided now to give him his first bench start of the season. Anton van Zyl, who would be first choice at many other franchises, gets to start at lock in Bekker’s place.
However, while Bekker sits out, and Dewaldt Duvenage, Peter Grant and CJ van der Linde all recuperate from injuries in Cape Town and will hopefully be ready for the Bulls game the following week, Coetzee has opted to go full-strength with most of the rest of his side.
That means Jean de Villiers returns at inside centre, which is probably a wise choice considering how nervous Kurt Coleman was in his first start at flyhalf last week and with the steadying influence of Duvenage, who has played quite a bit at pivot in recent weeks, now also absent.
De Villiers’ return means Juan de Jongh drops to the bench, where he is joined by recent Western Province under-21 star Louis Schreuder, who is backing up Ricky Januarie at scrumhalf, and former Lions flyhalf Earl Rose. The latter will remain with the Stormers until such time that Grant has been declared fit.
In another change to the side that won 16-3 against the Brumbies, Tiaan Liebenberg replaces Deon Fourie at hooker. Liebenberg was the first choice hooker before he was injured in the pre-season and this will be his first start. Fourie has grown as a player in his absence.
Stormers team: Conrad Jantjes, Gio Aplon, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Kurt Coleman, Ricky Januarie, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Anton van Zyl, Rynhardt Elstadt, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Wicus Blaauw. Replacements: Deon Fourie, Frans Malherbe, Andries Bekker, Nick Koster, Louis Schreuder, Earl Rose, Juan de Jongh.