Forward Michael Rhodes and centre Juan de Jongh, both of whom have been battling with hamstring injuries this season, have been passed fit by the DHL Stormers’ medical staff.
That means that Rhodes and De Jongh – neither of whom have played Vodacom Super Rugby this season – will be available for selection against the Brumbies next Saturday, when the DHL Stormers play their second home game of 2013.
Rhodes and De Jongh will also be joined in the selection frame by Springbok back Jaco Taute who ran freely with his teammates at the HPC on Wednesday afternoon – having, of course, missed two matches after taking a blow to his groin region against the Bulls last month.
Speaking after training on Wednesday, the Stormers’ last session in their bye week, DHL Stormers boss Allister Coetzee confirmed the news: “Michael (Rhodes) and Juan (de Jongh) – they both passed their fitness tests and will be ready for selection against the Brumbies. Jaco Taute ran with the team today, so that was also pleasing for us.
“Unfortunately, Schalk (Burger) won’t be considered for next week (against the Brumbies). He’s trained well, but he’s not quite where he should be. There’s been an improvement (in his calf), but he’s not ready to play… I will certainly let everyone know when Schalk is ready.”
Lock Andries Bekker (the Man of the Match against the Chiefs this past week), No.8 Duane Vermeulen and points-machine Joe Pietersen all sat out training on Wednesday – for precautionary reasons only, explained Coetzee.
“Like I said last week, the bye has come at a good time for us – in terms of taking stock of our season so far – but it’s also allowed us to rest a few niggles (this week),” said the Stormers boss.
“We had physical away games against the Bulls and the Sharks and the Chiefs (fixture) was one helluva game too. That’s the nice thing about a bye week… it has certainly come at a good time.”
With the Stormers on a bye this week, coach Coetzee sent players to the DHL Western Province squad for game time in the Vodacom Cup.
Of the players sent ‘down’, only Don Armand will line up on the side of the scrum for the Province side on Saturday (against the Sharks XV at City Park – kick-off 15h30). Rhodes will not play (as he passed his fitness test on Wednesday only) and experienced prop Brok Harris has a long-standing personal commitment which will prevent him from playing.
“It’s tough to send players in specialist positions – like, say, hooker or scrumhalf – to the Vodacom Cup, in case of a late injury… but, in other positions, we will do more of this as the season progresses.
“We can, and will, rotate in the positions that we’re strong in (in the DHL Stormers team). You want your strongest team out there at the business-end of the competition, but you want everyone to chip in, at some point, and be part of selection (at some point).”
Looking ahead to taking on the Brumbies at DHL Newlands on March 23 (kick-off 19h10), Coetzee said: “We’re learning from our mistakes and that gives me confidence moving ahead. You want the guys playing well and executing our plans out there.
“We have selection options ahead of next week, but we have to look at how we want to play the Brumbies,” he added.
“They’re a tough team; they do their basics right and play their kicking game well. They’re also very physical at the breakdown and have strong ball-carriers and that is why they’re doing well. That will all definitely have an influence on our selection.”
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