With a record of six wins in six starts it should hardly be regarded as a surprise that the DHL Stormers have once again stuck with their tried and trusted formula for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash with the Reds at Newlands.
The same 22 that did duty in the 16-6 win over the Sharks in the big South African derby last weekend will be in tow again for the Reds match. It is the first time this season that the Stormers have retained the same match-day squad as in all the others there have been small tweaks caused by injury or the need to give bench players a chance to pick up match practice for the Western Province Vodacom Cup team.
There was a lot of talk of the need to rotate this season as a means to combat the potential attrition threat posed by the new expanded Super Rugby competition, which now stretches through into July. That is apparently still in the Stormers’ future, but the early season battle with synchronisation between the various combinations has prompted coach Allister Coetzee to stick with a policy of continuity for now.
“At the start of the season I thought starting out with a bye in the opening week might be a problem for us but here we sit two weeks away from another bye,” said Coetzee.
“That means that with the players coming into form now we can let them hit their straps for another two weeks and then we can take the rest and reassess from there how we will approach the rest of the tournament. It wouldn’t be a good idea to rotate now just for the sake of it. What we are doing now is working and we would like to stick with what is working.
“When our reserves come on they make a huge impact, from De Kock Steenkamp through Juan de Jongh to Nick Koster, so it is not as if those players are not making a contribution. We like how it is going now. Later in the competition we will look at the question of rotation again.”
There were two players doubtful for the game earlier in the week, but while both Rynhardt Elstadt and Peter Grant had bandaging on their legs at training on Wednesday, they will take the field against the Reds.
“I suppose you could say this is the easiest selection of the season thus far because all the players are now starting to run into form and the combinations are starting to come together, which does make it easier,” said Coetzee.
Skipper Schalk Burger said that his team faced a difficult challenge on Saturday as the better a team does the more important it becomes to keep being successful.
“It’s a long season and there is no room for complacency and we know that in this competition if you lose one game you can quickly find yourselves three matches down. Every time we win we feel that it raises the pressure for us to maintain that focus and that level of performance the following week,” said Burger.
Backing up a good performance with another excellent game the following week was a big emphasis when the Stormers built up for the match against the Western Force the week after the win over the Bulls at Loftus, and they ended up putting 50 points on the Force.
“We know that the Reds will pose a different threat to the one that the Sharks posed last week, they will attack a lot from broken play and we will hopefully be ready for that,” said Burger.
Stormers team: Gio Aplon, Danie Poolman, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger (captain), Andries Bekker, Rynhardt Elstadt, Brok Harris, Deon Fourie, Wicus Blaauw.
Reserves: Ethienne Reynecke, CJ van der Linde, De Kock Steenkamp, Nick Koster, Ricky Januarie, Gary van Aswegen, Juan De Jongh.