Springbok No 8 Joe van Niekerk is looking forward to getting some more game time with the Vodacom Stormers after his recent return from injury.
The athletic loose forward will be one of the Stormers key players when they tackle the impressive Crusaders at Newlands on Saturday in their first game after returning from the Australasian leg of their Super 14 campaign.
Van Niekerk had two starts since he was cleared, but feels he is not at his sharpest yet. He said it was good to be playing again.
“It feels positive – it is just so good to be back on the field. The more game time I get, obviously the sharper you get.
“That is what I’ve been aiming for. The coach has been playing me more and that is what I was looking for – to get more minutes on the park.”
The former Cats loosie said the more time he gets to be around players such as De Wet Barry and Jean de Villiers and pick up on what they are doing, the better the team would gel.
Van Niekerk expects a humdinger at Newlands on Saturday. “This is a huge game. Mentally and physically our team is going to be ready for a huge onslaught, but in saying that we have so many Springboks in our side, like they have All Blacks, so there are no excuses and we want to go out there and do the job.”
The Crusaders have left Richie McCaw out of their squad and selected fellow All Blacks Leon Macdonald and Dan Carter on the bench. Van Niekerk feels McCaw’s absence is a setback for the Crusaders, but added they still have a good loose trio.
“I think he is a world class player and he’s done a lot in the game. In saying that you’ve got Schalk Burger and Luke Watson who are both in top form, so if he were playing it would have been more of a challenge.
“I think it’s still going to be a really good battle amongst the loose forwards, because Mose Tuiali’i has been in good form.”
Reuben Thorne, another seasoned All Black flank, will lead the Crusaders in the absence of McCaw.