Big Joe set to return to the Vodacom Stormers side

PUBLISHED: March 28, 2006

Joe van Niekerk is set for a return to the Vodacom Stormers side in Friday’s Super 14 match against the Western Force in Perth.

The big Springbok loose-forward has been laid low by an injury for several months now and must still make his first appearance for the Stormers this season.

News from the Stormers camp in Perth is that Van Niekerk is looking sharp and ready to do his thing on Friday.

“Joe has been on a rehab programme and is looking in fantastic shape,” said coach Kobus van der Merwe. “He is dead keen to get back on the park and has shown great determination in the practice sessions this week.

“The Force match will provide the ideal opportunity to reintroduce him to game play.”

The coach said he would not tempted to make a change to the loose-forward combination. In some circles it was suggested that Schalk Burger reverts to the open side flank position, where he originally made a name for himself.

At the moment Luke Watson is fulfilling that role, with Burger on the blind side.

“The current combination suits the way we want to play, and having Joe back gives us further options,” was the coach’s comment.

The only injury concern for the Stormers at the moment is scrumhalf Neil de Kock, who is battling an ankle injury. The Stormers could be in trouble if De Kock cannot play, as he and Bolla Conradie are the only scrumhalfs in the squad.

Paul Delport, however, is on standby in Cape Town.

“We are monitoring Neil de Kock’s ankle, but otherwise the rest of the guys are fit and taking part in all of the sessions.”

About the possible return of captain De Wet Barry to the starting lineup after he sat out the last match, Van der Merwe said: “We have to consider what is best for the Stormers at this stage of the competition and what we have to do to get a win on Friday.

“We have a very young squad and a key aspect, therefore, will be the inclusion of experienced players . We are blessed to have the talents of players like Jean, de Wet and Marius and have an option to select all three of them to start.”

Van der Merwe said he agreed that the captain should be always be a first choice player, but added: “Unless extreme circumstances dictate that this should not be the case.

“There has been criticisms of his current form but we believe that De Wet is the right man to captain the side and that he can deliver the goods.”

The Stormers team will be announced on Wednesday.