Coetzee gambles on Fourie at No 8
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee appears to have changed his mind about experimenting with his selection for the last Super Rugby league game of the season against the Rebels at Newlands on Saturday.
Coetzee has named Deon Fourie, normally a hooker, at No 8 in place of Jebb Sinclair. The Canadian, who has been ruled ineligible for the play-off stages, has been switched to the bench as loose-forward cover.
This is a departure from what Coetzee said earlier in the week. On Monday, he said that the log points needed to secure a home semifinal were an imperative and he would not be selecting with an eye to the future, which in this instance means the knock-out phase.
The change of heart though is a good thing, for the Stormers should expect to beat the Rebels at home, where they haven’t lost all season. And if Fourie is not good enough to be risked in this match, then surely he isn’t good enough to be risked at No 8 in a semifinal either?
Fourie, who started at hooker against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week, wore the No 6 jersey in a recent match against the Sharks and has acquitted himself well as a replacement flank when called upon to do so. He made some crucial turnovers when playing in the back row in the last Newlands game against the Lions.
However playing off the back of the scrum will be a new challenge for him, and with the semifinals in mind, it will be interesting to see if Coetzee is prepared to make a few other adjustments in an attempt to look at other options should the Stormers set up a solid platform in the Rebels game and play them into a situation where they can’t lose.
For instance, Eben Etzebeth will be back for the semifinal, and they do say desperate times call for desperate measure. So with Etzebeth back, what chance of Andries Bekker being used at No 8?
It may seem like a crazy idea, but late Springbok coach Kitch Christie used lock Mark Andrews at No 8 for two World Cup play-off games in 1995 – and his team won the competition.
Yes, times have changed since then, and No 8 is a specialist position – but then Fourie is hardly a specialist No 8 either.
The good thing for the Stormers is that they do have some time to consider their options as it is hard to see them not reaching at least their minimum target at the weekend by ensuring that they have a bye next week as they and the Chiefs watch the first round of the Super Rugby Finals Series from the sidelines.
Tiaan Liebenberg takes Fourie’s place in the front row and it is to be hoped that he will help improve what was a shaky scrumming performance in Bloemfontein last week and also the previous week against the Lions.
Brok Harris is back in the match 22 after recovering from a broken nose but only on the bench, where he joins fellow prop Deon Carstens.
Obviously Fourie will move from No 8 to hooker should Liebenberg be injured or require a rest, and he does have Sinclair covering him from the bench. And then of course, with Quinn Roux a more than capable lock replacement, there is also Bekker.
DHL Stormers team: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Deon Fourie, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Deon Carstens, Brok Harris, Quinn Roux, Jebb Sinclair, Louis Schreuder, Burton Francis, Gerhard van den Heever.