It is going to be a battle royal at Newlands on Saturday when the Vodacom Stormers and the Sharks meet in the first Vodacom Super 14 match of the season.
And all eyes will be on the two packs of forwards in what promises to be a ferocious and fiery battle. The Sharks could come to Cape Town with big names such as Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, Deon Carstens, John Smit, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis and Ryan Kankowski.
The Stormers will be relying on Springbosk Schalk Brits, Brian Mujati, Andries Bekker and Schalk Burger to set the standard and help their mates to stem the expected tide. Stormers forwards coach Gary Gold is full of confidence that his guys are ready and fully prepared for what will be an intriguing 80 minutes.
“Yes, we are confident that we had a very good build-up. The guys have worked hard and applied themselves, so I think we are suitably prepared. We had good opposition in the two warm-up games and had good practice sessions against the Varsities (Stellenbosch and Cape Town) as well. We had quite a bit of game time and by and large it went well.”
Gold expects all his forwards, except for injured prop Brok Harris, to be fit for consideration. “They are all looking good. Everybody is healthy, fit, enthusiastic and raring to go.”
The man who also doubles as the forwards coach of the Springbok side doesn’t agree with those who reckon the Stormers are lacking depth at lock after the departure of Ross Skeate and Francois van der Merwe. “I don’t think that is right,” commented Gold.
“AJ (Venter) had a fantastic pre-season and he hardly missed a session during the pre-season. He is in fantastic shape. Then we have Hilton (Loberts) covering and also the young George Earl. I am confident that we have three good locks who are fit and ready and chomping at the bit.
“They are ready to play and I am confident about our depth in that position. Some might feel we don’t have a state of the art five lock because that was what Ross was. People should however remember that last year AJ played his Super 14 rugby at flank.
“He might now be short of the mobility and pace required at loose-forward, but that is not the case at lock. AJ was the main jumper for the Sharks during the years he played there. He is hugely physical and there never was a question mark over his physicality. I am excited to have him.
“Hilton is the back-up to Fondsie (Adriaan Fondse) and he also had a fantastic pre-season. He is enjoying it in Cape Town and he’s been working hard. It is pleasing to have him for us as coaching staff.”
The Stormers side will be announced on Wednesday.