Jean fine, but Connie out

PUBLISHED: February 11, 2008

Coach Rassie Erasmus had good news for Vodacom Stormers supporters on Monday evening after training.

Captain Jean de Villiers had been declared fit for the season pipe-opener against the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday. De Villiers sat out training last week due to a hamstring strain, but on Monday he took a full part in training – much to the delight of the coaching staff.

The centre will thus be leading out the team against the defending champions.

The bad news, however, was that fullback Conrad Jantjes was ruled out due to the hand injury he picked up in training late last year. “The only guys who are definitely out are Connie and Eddie Andrews. Jean is 100%,” said Erasmus.

He added: “Conrad is actually 100%, but we feel in terms of match fitness it is just one week too soon. He lacks a bit of match fitness, that’s all.”

Erasmus, who joined the Stormers and Western Province close to the end of last season, will be announcing his first Stormers team at a media conference on Wednesday.

He has brought players such as former Bulls lock Adriaan Fondse and Lions Brian Mujati (prop), Enrico Januarie (scrumhalf) and Wylie Human (wing) to Newlands. With a new coach and new faces in the squad combinations and interplay could be a problem.

The coach, however, was not too concerned about that, although he warned that things would not be perfect first time out. “A coach would never come in and get everybody on the same wavelength immediately.

“It is a process, so there will be hiccups. That won’t be because of a lack of commitment or a lack of effort though. People should expect mistakes, but hopefully we can minimize those to the minimum.

“You cannot expect everything to be perfect after being together for only two, three months.”

Asked about the fitness and conditioning of his players a few days before the big kick-off, Erasmus expressed satisfaction with the hard work put in by the squad.

“I think we are on par as far as fitness and conditioning are concerned. It is up to the players now to adapt to the higher intensity of Super 14 rugby. It is completely different to the intensity of a warm-up game.

“It is always a step up and we need to get used to it quickly. They will be fit enough. There are 13 hard games and they would have to press through the physical pain to adapt to that level and I am convinced we will be capable of doing that.”