Vodacom Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe is optimistic that newly appointed captain De Wet Barry would be ready for the first Super 14 match of the season against the Cats at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on February 11.
Van der Merwe on Wednesday confirmed the Springbok centre as his captain for the entire 2006 season. Barry recently had knee surgery and was walking with a great deal of discomfort at the Vodacom Stormers first press conference of the new season at Newlands.
He takes over from Corne Krige, who has retired from the game. Van der Merwe said it was a unanimous decision to appoint De Wet as captain for the season.
“He will be captain of the Stormers for the full season. We are certainly not going to change the captaincy again or appoint two captains.
“There obviously will be games where De Wet will not be playing or might be rested. In terms of that we’ve got Schalk Burger, who was the captain of the Currie Cup side, who can take over. We are confident that De Wet is the right choice.”
Van der Merwe is not too worried about the knee surgery his captain recently had. “Luckily De Wet has always been in top condition and hopefully we will have him back for the first game against the Cats.
“It was a minor procedure and we wanted to get it out of the way before the competition starts and not lose him during the course of the competition. So hopefully he’ll be back for the first game, but definitely for the second game.”
Asked about how he is planning to handle the Stormers three Springbok midfielders – Barry, Jean de Villiers and Marius Joubert – the coach said it would be foolish to expect any Springbok to play in all the Super 14 games.
“You have to look at the long term. You cannot expect any of the Springboks to play 13 Super 14 games, plus the Tri-Nations as well as the Currie Cup. You’ll break the guys even before the Tri-Nations competition has started.
“We’ve got a good rotation policy in place. But in terms of the captaincy, De Wet will remain captain whether he plays or not. He will fulfil all the functions of the captain. Whether Jean and Marius and De Wet rotate, doesn’t matter.
“We have in Schalk and some of the other players very good leaders, so De Wet will remain captain. You don’t have to worry about the position of inside centre. Jean can play outside, De Wet has been training at outside – we have so many options because they are all talented rugby players.
“Marius can play on the wing, Jean can play on the wing, so in terms of that we have a lot of possibilities.”
Asked what he would do in a vital, must-win game, Van der Merwe’s answer was short and sweet: “Well I can tell you this, if it comes down to a crunch game, I want De Wet Barry there.”
He said it was difficult to say pre-tournament how much game-time each of his Springbok stars would get, mentioning injuries and form as factors that would influence that decision.
“There are no guarantees and De Wet also knows that. Anyone in any position can lose form for a week or two and that is our job to asses that.
“I think the guys who are in form would probably play 60 to 70 percent of the games as first choice, but we will have a good rotation policy and get expert advise from our conditioning and medical guys. When the guys are fatigued, they will get a break.”