Rassie optimistic about changes

PUBLISHED: March 4, 2009

Vodacom Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus is optimistic that the changes he made to his side for Saturday’s Vodacom Super 14 match at Loftus in Pretoria against the Bulls would have the desired effect.

The Stormers – with two wins from three starts thus far – take on the high-flying Bulls who would be full of confidence after three wins in three games. Added to that, they have had the upper hand in recent fixtures against the Stormers.

Erasmus on Wednesday selected Super 14 greenhorn Nick Koster at wing in place of Sereli Naqelevuki and at flyhalf he opted for Willem de Waal in place of Springbok Peter Grant. The young Wicus Blaauw also takes over from the injured JD Moller at prop and veteran AJ Venter instead of Adriaan Fondse starts at lock.

The coach said he thought Koster, who was reverted from loose-forward to wing this season – deserved a chance. “We moved him there. He performed well in the first game against quality opposition – the Sharks – when Sereli was injured.

“We think normally at altitude when you playing at Loftus you do get tired and maybe we’ll need some fresh legs later in the game. Two quality players of that size might mean something for us at Loftus over 80 minutes.”

He said he knew the Bulls would test Koster with kicks. “Everybody knows that we’ll get a good kicking game from their side. He will be tested and as all the other players he will make mistakes, but I think he is well equipped to handle it.

“Obviously there is pressure and other external factors… it’s a little more than normal skills that is required when you go to Lotus. It’s tough playing there. The guys kick the ball really high and really far there – Fourie (du Preez) and Morne Steyn… it will be a great test for him but I’m sure he will stand up to it.”

He added that Koster was exceptionally good at falling back and fielding balls kicked behind him. De Waal is renowned as a prolific kicker of the ball himself and Erasmus made no secret of the fact that the Stormers are planning to put the former Cheetahs match winner’s boot to good use.

“Everybody knows he is going to kick the ball on Saturday and they are going to kick the ball a lot. Willem is quite well equipped to do that, so hopefully he can do it. It will be only his second game in a few months, so he will get tired and we definitely will use Peter Grant later in the game,” said the coach.

The former Springbok loose-forward said Venter’s experience could come in handy at the Loftus cauldron on Saturday. “AJ is more experienced and he played at Loftus more than me.

“That can help us when we play tough opposition like that, not that I am pointing a finger to Adriaan in any way. I just think it is nice to have two locks like that and Adriaan playing a part in the second half, but AJ’s experience will mean a lot to us this weekend.”