Erasmus optimistic about Jean and Sireli

PUBLISHED: February 17, 2009

Rassie Erasmus, head coach of the Vodacom Stormers, is confident that backline stars Jean de Villiers and Sireli Naqelevuki will be ready for Friday night’s second Vodacom Super 14 match against the Reds at Newlands.

The coach bracketed De Villiers with Dylan des Fountain at inside centre and Naqelevuki with Nick Koster at left wing when he announced his side on Tuesday. He said the players’ participation on Friday would depend on them passing a fitness test, but added he was optimistic that both would be ready for the Reds.

De Villiers left the field on a stretcher in Saturday’s defeat against the Sharks at Newlands and was taken to hospital for tests. He received a heavy blow to the head early in the second half. Naqelevuki has been out of action for a few weeks now after suffering a chest injury against Boland in a warm-up match.

Jean de Villiers said he got quite a big fright on Saturday when he got whiplashed after making a tackle. “I was conscious al the way. I have got a patch on the back of my head I can feel, but otherwise I am okay.”

Erasmus has also stuck with Duane Vermeulen at No 8 after the loose forward produced a strong showing against the Sharks. Last week, Erasmus spoke about rotation in the back row, but has ultimately retained the same unit that battled the Sharks.

“We’d like to rotate if we’re winning,” Erasmus said at the media conference on Tuesday. “We have quality all round and there are a number of players pushing for starting positions. It was tempting to change the side, but we don’t feel it’s right at this stage.”

Erasmus identified poor kicking as an aspect of their game they gave attention to this week on the training field. “The Sharks had a very good team game. They also kicked well while we didn’t handle it that well. But we worked hard on that aspect of our game this week.”

The coach however added that the Stormers had enough chances to erase the deficit of 15-20 in the last few minutes. “In the last five minutes we had four or five opportunities where we could have clinched the game. But we lacked composure and we needed to improve our kicking game. We also lost five lineouts and that is something we worked at.

“But the biggest problem was the kicking game and the composure we lacked to take the opportunities in the last 15 minutes.”