Vodacom Stormers to feel at home at Ellis Park

PUBLISHED: May 15, 2008

There will be a distinct homeboy feeling for several Vodacom Stormers players when they run out at Ellis Park against the Lions on Saturday.

Ellis Park was once the happy hunting ground for at least six players in the Stormers side for Saturday’s Super 14 clash.

And on the opposite side there will be at least seven players in the Lions ranks that have had equally strong ties in the past with rugby in the Stormers region.

This should add plenty of needle to the fiery passion that usually goes with South African Super 14 derbies. It should make for a refreshing throw back to the good old-fashioned North versus South rivalry.

Of the Lions old boys fullback Conrad Jantjes is probably the most feared.

He is presently on top of his game at the Stormers and has regained the form that won him Springbok colours as a Cats (now the Lions) player in 2001.

He was born and bred in Johannesburg but followed his heart to Cape Town at end of the 2006 season.

One player who will be out to prove a thing or two to the Lions hierarchy is Zimbabwean-born prop Brian Mujati who was recruited to Lions territory in 2003. He did not enjoy much game time there.

He has been at the centre of a wrangle between the Stormers and the Lions over his services earlier this year.

The Lions have lost out after a Saru ruling on the matter but it appears that the Ellis Park bosses may mount a fresh challenge any day now.

Mujati has come on in leaps and bounds since moving south and is a strong contender for Springbok colours when the in-coming tours get under way next month.

Former Bolander Ricky Januarie has spent the past five seasons at the Lions where he became a Springbok. Given the surplus of good scrumhalves at Newlands, he was a surprise item on the Stormers’ off-season shopping list but he has been in outstanding form.

On current form, he is generally regarded as a first-choice for the Boks, even ahead of the world-class Fourie du Preez who is no where near his best form at the Bulls.

The Lions made a great buy a few years ago when they bagged hooker Schalk Brits, a former Matie. During the 2004 and 2005 seasons there and he established himself as one of the finest hookers in the country. However, he returned to Cape Town at the start of 2006, and since then has been a strong contender for Bok colours.

Centre Gcobani Bobo, the former Rondebosch Boys High player, left for the Golden Lions in 1999 and remained in Joburg until 2004. After that he swopped Ellis Park for the shark tank at Kings Park, and he too was a surprise off-season buy for the Stormers.

However, he’s formed a lethal midfield combination with Jean de Villiers and on Saturday Ellis Park fans will get a look-in at a likely future Bok midfield pairing.

And then there’s veteran campaigner Wylie Human who has come into the Stormers frame after the injury to speedster Tonderai Chavhanga.

Human last played at Ellis Park in 2007, after he joined the Cats in 2005. He too raised eyebrows in certain circles when the Stormers recruited him at the end of last year.

In the Lions line-up, loosie Joe van Niekerk and wing Rayno Benjamin have previously played for the Stormers.

Lions fullback Earl Rose, a former WP Currie Cup player, could not land a Stormers contract and was snapped up by the Ellis Park outfit and he made his Super rugby debut there in 2006.

Lately Rose has produced a few sparkling displays and he may just want to use Saturday’s outing to show the Stormers that they lost out by not recruiting him.

There are three other Lions players in Saturday’s match who were born in Stormers territory but could crack the big time there.

They are prop Ross Geldenhuys (a WP under 20 cap in 2003), the Stellenbosch-born wing Dusty Noble and the Paarl-born lock Franco van der Merwe.