Investec Stormers coach Gert Smal described Friday night’s first warm-up match for the Super 12, against Boland at Wellington, as a “worthwhile exercise”.
The Stormers beat Boland 43-16 and now have two games, against the Gwent Dragons in Dubai and Wasps in London, left before the competition kicks off.
Smal said the big positive from the first game was that the squad did not suffer any big injuries. There was a bit of a concern about scrumhalf Tertius Carse, who left the field with a shoulder injury 20 minutes into the second half.
Smal, however, was not too worried, saying the scrumhalf had full movement of his shoulder. Springbok wing Breyton Paulse took over from Carse at scrumhalf as Bolla Conradie and Neil de Kock were both given more time to recover from the injuries they sustained at the end of last season.
“Boland was a well organized team and they put us under some good pressure. It was a typical pre-season game where you want to give 36 players a chance. Now we will start with the fine-tuning,”said Smal.
“There a lot of things we still need to give attention to, like the tight phases and contact play. All in all I am very satisfied with the exercise. It was worthwhile and all the guys got a fair chance to play.”
The coach didn’t seem to perturb about the multitude of handling errors that marred the performance. “The ball was slippery and the guys couldn’t grip it properly. We weren’t sharp enough on the attack and the speed of our phase ball was still too slow.
“The defence sit back and wait for us and they caught us too easily behind the gain line tonight.”
Tonderai Chavhanga, who made such a huge impression against the Blues in the Super 12 game in Auckland last year, is back with the Stormers this season and his performance was the highlight of the second half. The Zimbabwean showed just how dangerous he can be with limited space and scored two exhilarating tries.
Smal was delighted: “I am very glad to see him looking so dangerous in such limited space.”
Jongi Nokwe, who played for Boland on Friday night, did not have too much of a chance to impress with his attacking prowess, but showed that he also possesses lightning speed.
“He is one for the future,” said Smal. “We took him to the Sports Science Institute and want him to be with us as long as possible, except when he is needed at another Super 12 team or the SA Sevens side. But he is still an option for us.”
On the subject of depth, Smal said he felt the Stormers had more depth last season. “We didn’t get a lot of injuries and that had a lot to do with our success. We had a little bit more experience with Corne Krige, Selborne Boome and Daan Human in the pack. Now the challenge is there for the youngsters to fill those positions.
“I think we have reasonable depth and experience amongst our backs, now the younsgers in the tight five must just make that step up.”
Good news for Stormers supporters is that Schalk Burger, who left the field with blood streaming from a facial wound, will be ready to resume training tomorrow. He suffered a cut above the eye and Smal said he opted to keep him off the field for the remainder of the game purely as a precautionary measure.