Schalk back to his best, says Rassie

PUBLISHED: March 12, 2009

Vodacom Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus believes flank Schalk Burger is close to returning to his brilliant best form.

The coach included the blonde Springbok stalwart in his starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Vodacom Super 14 match against the Lions at Newlands.

Burger returns in place of Francois Louw, who started against the Bulls at Loftus in Pretoria last week. Burger’s calf strain prevented him from starting in that defeat, but the Stormers medical staff has given him the green light for this Saturday’s fixture. “Schalk is a world-class player and is now fully fit. He showed on Saturday he’s form is good again. Before that he was good too, but just a bit short of world-class. I think he performed well on Saturday.”

Adriaan Fondse returns to the second row in place of AJ Venter, while JD Moller is back in on the substitutes’ bench with Wicus Blaauw getting another start after an impressive display against the Bulls.

“AJ had a good run at Loftus last week,” explained Erasmus. “This is our first-choice lock combination, but it was important that AJ got game time. It’s a long competition and you never know when there will be injuries, so when the next guy steps in you have to ensure he has had a run.”

The Stormers are expecting a big battle in the forwards, but Erasmus is confident of Blaauw’s abilities.. “The Lions are a very strong scrumming unit and all in all they have a good pack. We’ve decided to leave JD on the bench this week, and I think the real pressure will come on the tighthead side as Heinke van der Merwe is starting at loosehead for the Lions. Heinke is a really strong player.

“If I think about it, I can’t think of any area where the Lions are weak. Their lineout stats aren’t great but they always seem to do well against us, and at the breakdown guys like Baywatch [Grobbelaar] are very dangerous.” Rookie winger Nick Koster is still in the starting XV despite Sireli Naqelevuki’s return. Springbok Tonderai Chavhanga is the man who is relegated to the bench.

“Nick needs to get game time at this level and we thought it may be easier if he features against the South African teams first. You’ll find Tondie is back in the mix for the next game.

“It was unfortunate that Sireli got that rib injury in the preseason. It was always going to be a two to six week recovery period, but this week I can honestly say he’s 100% fit and ready to start.”