Rassie: Schalk favourite to lead Vodacom Stormers

PUBLISHED: October 20, 2009

Vodacom Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus on Tuesday indicated that Springbok flank Schalk Burger is the favourite to captain the Stormers in 2010 in the Vodacom Super 14 competition.

Centre Jean de Villiers, who led the Stormers this year, is player his club rugby in Ireland and Vodacom WP captain Luke Watson is on the verge of leaving for Bath. On Tuesday Erasmus addressed the media at Newlands and said Burger, who led the team when De Villiers was laid low by injury earlier this season, will in all likelihood lead the team next season.

“Schalk is the frontrunner. He’s a great leader and he showed on the weekend (in the Currie Cup semifinal against the Blue Bulls) the kind of impact he can make.

“He also relates well to our management structures and is a Province boy through and through. It’s not finalised, but it’ll be a big surprise if he’s not appointed.”

The departure of Watson to Bath has also left a vacancy at No 8. Duane Vermeulen has played a lot of rugby for the Cheetahs at the back of the scrum, but Erasmus said he was considering moving Burger to No 8.

“The openside debate is ongoing. You have a guy like Heinrich Brussow who is a classic openside, but some teams prefer to have a whole team that can contest. We are one of those teams, we like Nr’s 1 through to 15 to make a contribution in this area.

“It also depends on different combinations for different games. Our defensive system is the same at the scrum, but on attack you need a guy who can handle the ball and there we will look at Schalk and Duane Vermueluen.” Erasmus also spoke about new recruits Bryan Habana from the Bulls and SA U20 star Lionel Cronje from the Cheetahs. The Lions Springbok centre Jaque Fourie will also boost the backline considerably.

“Having Habana come down is really the cherry on the top when you consider the other guys back from injury. I think his off-field contribution is going to be huge and his experience will really help the youngsters.

“I don’t really have to say much about his on-field ability. With Jaque Fourie coming it will be an exciting backline, and youngsters like Juan de Jongh should thrive. It shouldn’t be hard to coach.

“The relative success of the team is encouraging, and it’s also encouraging to think guys like Nick Koster, Willem de Waal, Morgan Newman, Adriaan Fondse and Conrad Jantjes will all be back next year. We should be really competitive.”

The coach said utility back Conrad Hoffmann’s move to the Springbok Sevens side was not a permanent one. “Conrad was unlucky with injuries in the past couple of seasons, so he hasn’t had much of a chance. “We’ve sent Conrad to play with the sevens side because we want him to get game time and we want him making decisions in a high-paced kind of game.

“Lionel is a really good option and he’s been involved with the SA U20s. He’s also a big guy, which is what we want, he is a Frans Steyn-kind of player. It depends on how quickly he settles whether he’ll be involved. “Both will be looked at in the warm-up games next year, and depending how they fare, they will be considered for the Super 14. Conrad will only play sevens to get game time. He still has a contract in the Super 14.”

Watson is the only member of the WP Currie Cup squad who will not be available for Super 14 duty.