Rassie expects tough battle

PUBLISHED: March 25, 2009

Rassie Erasmus, head coach of the Vodacom Stormers, expects a tough and evenly-fought battle when his side takes on the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday 28 March. Kick-off is at 08h35 (SA time).

Erasmus announced his side for their first Vodacom Super 14 match on tour on Wednesday. Afterwards he said it was difficult to predict how things would go for his side against the Saders.

“They are a difficult side. They, like us, battled in their first few games and there is little to choose between the two sides. I don’t think there will be a favourite in Saturday’s game.

“Maybe because they are playing on their home ground they will have a lot of confidence, but the same goes for us because we have toured well last year. Factors like the referee’s decisions, the weather etc could play a big role in determining the outcome.

“But if we lose it doesn’t mean we are less talented than them. The same applies to them and I expect a very evenly, closely contested game.”

Turning to his team selection, Erasmus said he doesn’t think the changes would affect the team’s performance negatively.

The coach decided to move Gcobani Bobo, who played at outside centre with Jean de Villiers on his inside all season long, to wing. And he was full of confidence that the former Sharks and Lions star would acquit him well in his new position.

“Bobo is a good defender and a great attacker and I can assure you he would not stand at wing the whole day. I have no doubt in my mind that Bobs will make it at wing. He is definitely not the quickest player on the field, but I have played many times against wings who were not the quickest but who were devastating on the attack.”

The coach was also quite happy that the shift to outside centre of his captain and midfield trump card De Villiers would not disrupt the team on attack or elsewhere. “No, I don’t think he is further away from the game. Chris Latham is fullback and he captains his side.

“I don’t think the fact that Jean is now at outside centre – only one position further – would affect the team dynamics and the captaincy. Jean will play the ball as much as in the previous games and I can assure you that would not affect the team dynamics.”

Erasmus admitted the loss of Andries Bekker, who broke a toe against the Lions two weeks ago, is a huge blow but said AJ Venter was a worthy replacement at lock.

“Look, you almost lost a meter when you have to replace Andries with AJ,” he quipped. “What we lose in Andries you can never replace,” he added on a more serious note.

“But what AJ brings to the party are things that Andries can’t. You won’t get the experience and the amount of Super rugby games. AJ for instance doesn’t offer as much in the lineouts than Andries, who is absolutely brilliant in that department, but you cannot really draw comparisons between the two.

“They are different types of players. I am just thankful that we have experienced players such as AJ to fall back onto. And maybe within a week or two we could have Andries back in the mix.

“The nature of his injury is such that he could be playing again in two or six weeks, so the possibility exists that he could be with us again within the next three weeks.”