Vodacom Stormers coach has faith in Whitehead

PUBLISHED: May 6, 2010

Vodacom Stormers wing Bryan Habana will not be in action in Saturday’s crucical Vodacom Super 14 match against the Sharks in Durban.

Youngster Tim Whitehead will instead be starting on the wing, as the Springbok star has been given more time to recover from a rib injury.

Habana was injured in the trashing of the Crusaders, and after giving him until Wednesday to prove his fitness, coach Allister Coetzee has decided Habana will not be risked.

University of Cape Town’s Whitehead, who is normally a centre, is elevated to the starting line-up after coming off the bench in place of Habana last week at Newlands.

Fullback Joe Pietersen is back after recovering from a hip injury that kept him out of the game for six weeks and he will be making his return from the bench.

“Bryan’s a top-class athlete so it is a blow, but the injury is not that bad and he could possibly be back for the next game against the Bulls,” said Coetzee at the media conference on Wednesday.

“It was an easy decision to include Tim, as he’s started for us twice already and is a natural footballer.

“The big feature about this team has been the performance of guys like Tim. We saw that when Schalk Burger was injured, Pieter Louw came in and did a remarkable job.”

Pietersen was the first-choice No 15 before injuring his hip in the win over the Cheetahs at Newlands. Coetzee had the option of reintroducing the blonde flyer at fullback and shifting Gio Aplon to wing, but the coach said it wasn’t right to rush Pietersen back.

“We did the same thing with Juan de Jongh. Joe is one of the fittest guys in the squad, but he hasn’t played in a while and we want to phase him back slowly.

“We also want to keep some continuity in selection, as Gio has done very well. We’d rather manage players during the week than rest them for matches at this stage of the competition.”

JD Moller retains the starting loosehead berth while JC Kritzinger is still undergoing rehabilitation for a calf injury. According to Coetzee, Kritzinger should be back in the next fortnight.

“We’ve had a lot of players coming back from injury like Connie Jantjes, Morgan Newman and Joe, who all ran at practice. It’s a big positive to think we’ll be getting JC and Wicus Blaauw back in the next two weeks.”