The DHL Stormers, with flyhalf Elton Jantjies back in the mix, trained at Collegians Rugby Football Club on Tuesday as the team continued its build-up towards the 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
The Stormers have played in two warm-up matches – against the Cheetahs and Boland – and coach Allister Coetzee will be ‘hosting’ some controlled, mini-contact matches behind closed doors this week as he looks to finalise his 22-man squad.
The Cape side will get their 2013 Super Rugby campaign underway against the Bulls in Pretoria on Friday, February 22 and the return of Jantjies – after the death of his father, Thomas, last month – is a big boost.
“We’re happy to have Elton back. He’s happy to be here and looking forward to the next few days of training,” Coetzee told the official DHL Stormers website after his team’s training session at a packed Lentegeur on Tuesday afternoon.
“Elton has kept very fit these past few weeks and trained very hard on his own. He slotted in seamlessly this morning and this afternoon – he was like a fish in water.
“He’s had a tough time, everyone knows that, but he’s happy to be (back) with his teammates and his friends again. He’s a quality player, he’s in good nick and we know he’ll do a job if selected.”
Whilst a few players watched training from the sidelines – including Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon – only hookers Scarra Ntubeni (shoulder) and Tiaan Liebenberg (back) and lock Eben Etzebeth (ankle) – none of whom were present at training – are definite non-starters a week and a half ahead of their season-opener.
“Jean and Gio not training… that was precautionary… It’s nothing that will keep them out of the Bulls game. However, Michael Rhodes is still battling with his hamstring and he’s a doubt (for the Bulls match),” admitted Coetzee.
“Schalk is looking positive (from his calf strain). He’s made a big improvement and we’ll know more about him later this week. Guys like Schalk and Juan are in the next tier and more likely to make the Bulls game (than Michael Rhodes), but it does affect your selections elsewhere.
“But like I’ve always said, this game is not won by just 15 players,” he added, “it’s down to the entire 22 and we need to make sure that all our selection options are well trained and ready.”
The DHL Stormers players were mobbed after training at Collegians and they all stuck around for some time to sign autographs for their loyal fans who turned out in their droves to watch their heroes go through their paces.
Said Coetzee: “It was great to be here today. I never played at Collegians myself but I played against the club and I know that Fleckie and Schalla played against Collegians during their club days too.
“There’s plenty of tradition and history at this club, but also plenty of support and we’re very appreciative of that support – today and always.”