Thumbs up thus far! That was the verdict from Vodacom Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe on Friday when he spoke about his charges preparation for Vodacom Super 14 2007.
The Stormers had their training camp in George from 15 to 20 December and the coach said he was happy with what was achieved there.
“Yes, I must say at the training camp we concentrated much more on rugby-specific things and less on conditioning. We had a very good conditioning phase before that and I am very happy with that aspect of our preparation too,” said Van der Merwe.
“The guys are in good shape and we had two full contact sessions behind us. We don’t have too many injury problems, except for Tonderai Chavhanga, who tore a hamstring.
“We are much better off preparation-wise than the same time last year.”
Van der Merwe also said inspirational flanker Luke Waton will lead the Vodacom Stormers in the Super 14 this season.
“He is back in training (after an ankle operation) and I am very happy about that. Luke was the obvious choice to lead the team,” added the coach.
The Stormers Fidjian wing Sereli Naqelevuki was supposed to arrive on Thursday, but according to Van der Merwe he missed his flight.
“We are still trying to find out what is happening. His bags were packed, so we’re waiting for him.”
Van der Merwe expects scrumhalf Paul Delport to miss the bulk of the Super 14. The promising youngster suffered glandular fever in December and is still recovering.
Fortunately Bolla Conradie is back in training, while Boland’s JP Joubert and Charl Blom are the other scrumhalves in the squad.
Two players who won’t be seen in the new Stormers outfit this year are last year’s wings Jongi Nokwe and Rayno Benjamin. Nokwe is with the Lions, while Benjamin joined the Cheetahs.
Van der Merwe explained: “I think it is important for them to get game time. It is in their interest. There is a gentleman’s agreement in place between the Super 14 coaches that you allow a player to go if you have enough depth in a position.
“With Breyton back, Sereli, Egon and Conrad Jantjes we have more than enough wings. At the Cheetahs Rayno could probably be their number one, while he probably would have been on the bench here.
“The same goes for Jongi and that is why we allowed them to go.”
The Stormers play two friendly games – against the Bulls at Loftus on 13 January and Boland on 20 January at Wellington – before kicking off their campaign with an away match against the Cheetahs on 3 February.