The need to play a more direct type of rugby is what led to the changes to the Vodacom Stormers side for Friday night’s Super 14 match against the Chiefs at Newlands.
Coach Kobus van der Merwe said making seven changes to the starting XV was not a knee-jerk reaction to the two losses his team has suffered in the first two games.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Van der Merwe on Wednesday when he announced his side. “It is still early days in the competition. I think we have looked at combinations. I think we are blessed to have a very good squad.
“Those players that are coming into the mix have done well in the friendly games. I think Robbie Diack (in at No 8 for the injured Joe van Niekerk) had a great pre-season, a lot of guys said he maybe should have started this season.
“Tiaan (Liebenberg, in for Schalk Brits at hooker) has been there, so you know I am confident that the guys we have selected are part of the squad, they are in the mix and they are doing well.”
Commenting on the choice of rookie JP Joubert ahead of veteran Bolla Conradie in what is viewed in some circles as a must-win game for the Stormers, Van der Merwe said he thought Joubert deserves a chance.
“He’s done really well. Bolla didn’t play too badly, but we also have to assess early in the competition whether JP can make it at this level. I am convinced he can. I think he showed that in all the friendlies that he came on.
“I think he has a fantastic service, his passing is absolutely superb, he is physical and again when he came on Friday night in the last 15 minutes or so I thought he did really well.”
The coach explained that the changes were brought about by a need to play a more direct and more physical game. “The guiding principal for us was to get a few more direct players on the field.
“I think we felt that in having so many game-breakers and guys that can play with ball in hand we were neglecting the primary focus, which is to get quality ball first, to get momentum first.
“I think that was the primary reason for the selection behind the selection like guys like Tiaan and Robbie, Francois van der Merwe on the bench and JP and also moving Conrad to fullback.
“We did battle to get field position and quality first phase attacking platforms in the opposition half and battled to get out of our half with their kicking game and that is why Conrad was shifted to fullback.”