Brave Gio receives high praise

PUBLISHED: May 17, 2010

Vodacom Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is planning to start the Vodacom Super 14 semifinal against the Waratahs at Newlands on Saturday with an unchanged side.

The Stormers beat the Bulls 38-10 on Saturday to secure second spot on the final league points’ table. They now host the Waratahs in their first home semifinal since 1999.

There was a bit of concern about the fitness of nippy wing Gio Aplon after he was flattened early in the game by an illegal Bakkies Botha shoulder charge into a ruck. The Bulls lock was cited for the incident.

Aplon received treatment and continued to be one of the stars of the show.

Coach Coetzee on Monday said he has a lot of respect for the 72 kg pocket rocket. “I have a lot of respect for Gio that he stayed on the field after the incident and still acquitted him well.

“He is a fighter and a player with whom you could go to war. Fortunately he is fine and he should be ready to take his place with Bryan Habana and Joe Pietersen in the back three.

“I am more than satisfied with the way Gio played this year. He plays excellent rugby and so far he’s been absolutely brilliant on the attack. He has the natural ability to accelerate into space.

“That is an exceptional talent that cannot be coached. Added to that he has excellent contact skills and he doesn’t get blown away easily,” enthused the coach.

Coetzee believes the Waratahs grew a lot since their second-round match. The Stormers had no trouble trouncing the team from Australia 27-6 at Newlands.

The coach believes this time round the Tahs will pose a huge threat. “They are a quality side. Like us, they pride them on their lineout and scrum.

“Their defence is solid. Phil Waugh’s team also have Wallabies such as Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Lachie Turner, Drew Mitchell and Kurtley Beale.

“Their own supporters earlier criticized them for not playing enough attacking rugby, but if you look at the tries they have scored recently you will see how dangerous they could be on attack.”