Jean to lead from outside centre
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers will lead the Stormers from his less familiar midfield position of outside centre in the last Super Rugby warm-up fixture against Boland at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
With Juan de Jongh out injured and likely to miss the first Super Rugby match of the competitive season against the Bulls at Loftus on 22 February, the selection of De Villiers in the No 13 jersey alongside Damian de Allende is a significant one. Coach Allister Coetzee surprised when he chose De Allende at inside centre for last year’s Currie Cup final, but the youngster has impressed enough to be entrusted with the responsibility of wearing the No 12 in Super Rugby.
De Villiers has of course played outside centre before, and played most of the early part of the last international season in that position for the Springboks. And it is his experience that has prompted Coetzee to go for De Allende at inside centre and De Villiers at outside, rather than the other way around.
“Jean has the experience and I would rather play him at 13 than thrust Damian into a new role so early in his career,” said Coetzee at the team announcement press conference.
Although Schalk Burger is still missing because of his calf injury and De Jongh is out with a hamstring tear, Coetzee has been able to call out a team for this match that looks a fair approximation of what the full strength combination may look like for the opening Super Rugby match. Andries Bekker, Siya Kolisi, Deon Fourie, De Villiers and Rynhardt Elstadt are the players who are back from short or long term injury layoffs and missed the narrow defeat to the Cheetahs in the seasonal pipe-opener last weekend.
“It’s particularly good to have Siya and Rynhardt back in action as the loose-forwards are an area we need to have depth and where the players need to work particularly hard on their match conditioning as so much is expected of them on the field,” said Coetzee.
“It’s a pity about Schalk (still not being there), but Duane Vermeulen is playing his second game and will bring leadership. We want to see the loosies operate at 100% against Boland in preparation for the Bulls match.”
Kurt Coleman continues at flyhalf due to the absence through compassionate leave of Elton Jantjies. He will be partnered by Dewaldt Duvenage, who returns to the No 9 jersey after making his comeback from a fairly lengthy absence because of injury off the bench against the Cheetahs.
Coetzee acknowledged that the competition between scrumhalves will be particularly keen in the early season.
“We started with Louis Schreuder last week and now apart from having Dewaldt starting, we also have Nic Groom back in the mix and playing off the bench,” the coach said.
Former UCT star Groom was one of the impressive newcomers in the Western Province team that won the Currie Cup last season.
Apart from Vermeulen, five other players who were in the starting lineup in Bloemfontein wear the same numbers in this game, including Jaco Taute, who will play his second consecutive game in a Stormers back three that is exactly the same as last time out, the other players being Gio Aplon and Bryan Habana.
Although Coetzee says he is still thinking about it and hasn’t made up his mind, it would appear a fair bet that this will be the back three combination for the Bulls game provided they all get through the Boland clash unscathed.
Former Lions Springbok Pat Cilliers made his Stormers debut off the bench last week and this week he goes one better by being entrusted with the No 3 jersey ahead of young Frans Malherbe.