DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has lauded the depth of his squad ahead of their tough Vodacom Super Rugby opener against the Bulls on Friday night (kick-off 19h10).
The Stormers will travel to Pretoria without injured Springboks Schalk Burger and Juan de Jongh – as well as lock Eben Etzebeth who was ruled out some time ago – but they are still able to call upon eight capped Springboks in their absence.
“That’s a lesson I learnt in the Currie Cup, the focus should be on the guys who are available,” said Coetzee after naming his team this week. “We must make sure they understand the details and know what is coming this weekend.
“We’re missing some world-class players and we do have four or five players making their Stormers debuts. However, they are all quality players.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been involved (at the Stormers) that we have such depth. We have Joe Pietersen on the bench, Gerhard van den Heever and Dewaldt Duvenage as backs cover.
“Yes, it’s a big game for us against a quality (Bulls) outfit at Loftus – it’s never going to be easy, but with this team we’ve covered all our bases and we’ll be up for what will be a massive derby game.”
On being without Burger (calf) and De Jongh (hamstring), the DHL Stormers boss explained: “We have sufficient depth for this game. It would be penny-wise, pound-foolish (to rush players back) and that’s not a risk I’m prepared to take.
“Schalk’s knee is 100 percent, but once you come off a big injury there is the chance of another niggle elsewhere.
“You want the calf muscle to not only be medically right, but you want it to be stronger and that is the reasoning behind my approach – he must be able to take a full load on the calf.”
And speaking about De Jongh, Coetzee added: “If we were to play a semifinal or a final this weekend, then Juan would’ve played. He ran pain-free, without any hassles.
“The important thing is that I don’t want the recurrence (of the hamstring injury), then he will be out longer – that extra week of rehabilitation and building up the muscle will lower the risk of the injury recurring.”
With the 2013 Super Rugby tournament getting underway in South Africa this weekend – having already started in Australia last week – there is still a lot of rugby to be played in 2013.
That makes the coach’s selections, for this week, all the more important, with youngsters like Nic Groom and Damian de Allende getting the backing from Coetzee.
“I’ve always maintained, if you want to do well in this competition, you have to get you players back towards the latter stages of this competition,” said Coetzee, who has guided the DHL Stormers to SA Conference titles in 2011 and 2012 and a top-of-the-log finish last year.
“There’s hardly a team that is able to field their top side (at the moment). Captain Keegan Daniel and hooker Bismarck du Plessis are out for the Sharks, the Reds are without their captain James Horwill and scrumhalf Will Genia, the Bulls have Dean Greyling sidelined.
“All teams have players out – similar to us. We have Eben Etzebeth out… Juan and Schalk (out).
“There’s a long way to go in the competition. You want your players back, for them to play for lengthy stints – not to come back for one game and then have another long lay-off.”