Depth a big plus for DHL Stormers

PUBLISHED: February 16, 2014

There were plenty of further positives for DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee after his team’s final pre-season warm-up match against the Boland Cavaliers on Saturday.

A very young DHL Stormers team – with four WPRI players in the matchday squad – went down 24-29 to a fired-up and experienced Boland team in sweltering conditions in Wellington but Coetzee was pleased with the 80-minute hit-out.

The Stormers have now had three decent games ahead of their opening fixture in the 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby season – having beaten the Bulls 26-19 and the Kings 40-7 over the past two weeks – and Coetzee pointed to another step in the right direction for his squad.

“Credit to Boland, they played well,” Coetzee told www.iamastormer.com.

“We achieved what we set out to achieve,” added the Stormers boss.

“We needed to give certain players game time and we needed to look at some young players. Four players, who were at school last year, played their first first-class match against a first-class team and I was impressed with all of them.”

The youngsters in action were fullback EW Viljoen and centre Daniel du Plessis – who started the game – and scrumhalf Justin Phillips and centre Jarryd Sage who came off the bench in the closing stages of the game. (All four players were still at school in 2013.)

Viljoen started in the No.15 jersey after Jaco Taute withdrew at the 11th hour, whilst Du Plessis – a Craven Week star for Western Province last year – came into the starting team after Michael van der Spuy cried off with a slight hamstring strain.

Said Coetzee: “We had a few disruptions before the game, losing a guy like Jaco Taute, plus we also had to make a few extra changes during the match because of the heat. But a big positive is that we tested our depth and I was happy with what I saw.”

Speaking about Taute, who will not be available for his team’s Super Rugby season-opener, Coetzee added: “Jaco’s knee flared up a bit, what with his workload in recent weeks. I certainly didn’t want to rush him – he’s come back from a serious knee injury.

“He’s not injured, he could easily have played, but we will be conservative with him and, in fact, I don’t think he will be considered for our opening game against the Lions (next weekend).”

Centre Juan de Jongh and winger Cheslin Kolbe are still sidelined with knee injuries of their own ahead of the Stormers’ first league match this year against the Lions and Coetzee admitted: “We have a few (selection) options and I will mull over those on Sunday.

“(Looking at out back three) there is Gio Aplon, who is back after getting married, (young) Kobus van Wyk did well in the first two warm-up games and there is, of course, Jean de Villiers who is back in the frame after taking a knock to his ear against the Bulls.

“Yes, we are thin, especially with Juan de Jongh out, but I think we will cope with guys like Gio, Kobus and, of course, Damian de Allende. And don’t forget Ryno Eksteen who did not play against Boland after doing well in our games against the Bulls and the Kings.”

More plusses for Coetzee after the Boland game were the performances of Springboks Tiaan Liebenberg (hooker) and Pat Cilliers (prop) up front, whilst young locks Jean Kleyn and Tazz Fuzani performed strongly either side of half-time.

“The halfbacks also did well,” added Coetzee. “A young man like (scrumhalf) Godlen Masimla had a tough start before settling in and (replacement flyhalf) Kurt Coleman did well when he came on.”

The DHL Stormers will travel to Johannesburg next weekend to kick-off their 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign against the Lions (Saturday, February 22 – kick-off 19h10).

Their first home game is against the Hurricanes on Friday, February 28 (kick-off 19h10). CLICK HERE to purchase tickets NOW!