Vodacom Stormers coach Allister Coetzee made it clear the changes to the side for Saturday’s Vodacom Super 14 match at Newlands were not made lightly, but with the necessary respect to the opposition.
Coetzee reinstated Gio Aplon at right wing and relegated Sireli Naqelevuki to the substitutes’ bench despite the latter’s barnstorming performance against the Hurricanes last Saturday. He also gave young Tim Whitehead a start at inside centre in place of the injured Juan de Jongh.
Coetzee emphasised he was not taking chances. “I’m not a gambling man, and I’m not a man that disrespects any opposition. I have huge respect for the Cheetahs and we know what is expected of us. It’s going to be a helluva clash.
“This is one forced change and obviously Gio is back in the starting line-up. Three weeks ago Gio was the best 14 around here. Then he had a bout of flu and it’s only right for him to have his place back.
“I was very pleased with Sireli and he needed that opportunity to gain confidence because we will need Sireli in the competition as we go along.”
Coetzee said including Willem de Waal at flyhalf and moving Peter Grant to centre. He explained the decision to opt for Whitehead instead as follows: “That was an option, but then you’re making two changes. By getting Tim Whitehead straight in to 12 you don’t do that.
“I am very happy with what I’ve seen of this youngster. It’s time we back our youngsters, when other unions do it it’s great, but when we do it people say we’re taking chances.”
Whitehead got a vote of confidence from his coach. “He’s played 4 matches in Varsity Cup and performed consistently well. He played 12 in the Vodacom Cup and he’s played three matches there and in two of our warm-up games. We’re pretty pleased with Timmy as a youngster.
“He’s a class player and what makes him a class player is that he’s got time on the ball and he’s got vision. At 12 we’re very thin in that department. Fortunately Juan de Jongh is a short-term injury and to have Tim and give him an opportunity will give us a great indication of where we are when we tour for the rest of the competition.”
Coetzee added that Paul Bosch, who suffered an elbow injury in the warm-up match against Boland, is back in training. “Bosch had his first outing on the field today (Wednesday), and it’s good that Paul is a week and a half ahead of his recovery.”
The coach said they backed their systems and he was confident that the changes would not disrupt the rhythm of the side. “We back our systems. We’ve really worked hard and the players believe in the structures and the systems.
“We’re making just one change because Peter Grant is playing very well at 10 and we’re happy to make that one change for this weekend. The Cheetahs are a quality side, they’ve proven many wrong and they’re on form, and for me that’s the best way I could have dealt with our team this week.”