The DHL Stormers will play their first match of 2013 against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this coming weekend, a game that coach Allister Coetzee feels will be a good yardstick for his side.
The Stormers have been back on deck for three weeks now – since their December recess – and they will now have a chance to flex their muscles in a match situation on Saturday (kick-off 17h00).
“The Cheetahs game will be a good indication for us,” said Coetzee.
“I’m pleased with the energy in the squad at present and I’m sure the players are also looking forward to playing some rugby. You want to make sure you get confidence in your systems, confidence in the fitness and confidence in the team – you have to build up in these pre-season matches.”
Coetzee revealed that hooker Deon Fourie, flanker Schalk Burger and centre Jean de Villiers were all unavailable for this weekend due to a variety of minor niggles and loose forwards Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt were also in doubt.
Then, of course, new flyhalf Elton Jantjies is currently on personal leave after the death of his father, Thomas, at the weekend.
“It’s really sad, a real tragedy for the Jantjies family and we want to support Elton in whatever way we can,” said Coetzee. “Once his dad has been laid to rest, we’ll assess how he feels.”
Speaking about the injury niggles in the DHL Stormers squad, the coach continued: “Schalk had one session on Monday morning and has a bit of a tight calf, but one session was sufficient in terms of what he had to do in terms of his fitness.
“Jean had a cyst removed and he still has a couple of stitches in his neck. There is no need to rush him back.
“Deon Fourie took a knock on his quad and has a haematoma. It’s just precautionary, as we don’t want to risk him with the situation at hooker. Youngster Stephan Coetzee and Martin Bezuidenhout (who joined us at training today) will feature at hooker against the Cheetahs. Martin has fitted in nicely. He looks sharp, as he’s had a game under his belt.
“Siya Kolisi is down with tonsillitis,” added the Stormers boss, “we’ll see how it goes on Tuesday and if he is not ready then I probably won’t select him.
“Rynhardt is also still on the sidelines. I’m still not happy with the recovery of his hamstring, which he tweaked last week. It’s not serious, but there is no need to push Rynhardt to play – he’ll be fine for the Boland game.”
Aside from Elstadt, Coetzee remains confident that all the above-mentioned players – who are carrying niggles at present – will be available for the Boland match at the Cape Town Stadium on February 9 (kick-off 14h45).
The coach concluded: “Like I’ve said before, the guys have to play. You have to play a certain number of minutes in order to be considered for the first game against the Bulls (on February 22).”
According to the official SuperSport website, Saturday’s match between the Toyota FS Cheetahs and the DHL Stormers – dubbed the ‘Free State Reconciliation Challenge’ – will be televised live on SuperSport One at 17h00.