Coetzee weighing up Blaauw and Carstens
The ridiculous decision by administrators to give the South Africa Under-20 team first call on players ahead of the IRB Junior World Championship that starts on Monday has Stormers coach Allister Coetzee scratching his head trying to decide between two players who have not played much Super Rugby recently.
Steven Kitshoff has reported for duty with the Baby Boks, as has Sharks centre Paul Jordaan. Both players were men that their coaches were reluctant to let go as their teams face important Super Rugby fixtures this weekend that could decide their respective seasons.
The Stormers play the Bulls at Loftus and the Sharks travel to Johannesburg to play the Lions.
However Saru eventually won the battle on the basis that it was apparently a decision that the presidents agreed to a few months ago, and when this was queried by the coaches they were flat-batted on that basis.
With the Junior World Championship only starting after this weekend’s round of matches, and the public rugby passion directed far more at Super Rugby than it ever will be at an age-group competition, you would have thought that Coetzee would have his wish for common sense to prevail granted, but that has not been the case.
Kitshoff has played all the Stormers' games this season and has hardly been off the field in that time, so Coetzee is facing a problem that is partially of his own making in that you could argue that there should have been more rotation.
But there again, Kitshoff has been rock solid for most of the season, and has only recently started to show a few signs of wear and tear, something that will not necessarily be helped by playing games within every couple of days of one another in the JWC.
“I just hope he is properly managed and doesn’t have to play in all the games, that would really not be good for Steven or for us,” said Coetzee at the weekend.
On Monday he said that Wicus Blaauw and former Sharks Springbok Deon Carstens were in line to replace Kitshoff, but he had yet to make up his mind which one would start in the No 1 jersey.
Carstens played a lot of games for the Sharks before going overseas but has had limited exposure to the Stormers on match days this season, while Blaauw hasn’t played any Super Rugby this year after falling out favour.
Blaauw has however given the Bulls some problems in past matches, and if he can fit quickly back into the Stormers systems, which shouldn’t be difficult as all the teams at Western Province follow the same base strategy, he might be the right option for Loftus.
Coetzee said he is still waiting on Siya Kolisi but the flanker is “99%” ready to return to action after missing the loss to the Sharks in Durban. Deon Fourie, normally a hooker, played in Kolisi’s place.
Joe Pietersen, who could sort out the problems the Stormers had dealing with the Sharks' kicking game last week, is also expected to be back for the crucial role he will be expected to fulfill in the quest to blunt one of the most feared kicking games in the competition at a venue where the altitude makes that avenue of attack even more lethal.