Jean set to face the Bulls
Tiaan Liebenberg is out but Jean de Villiers is set to return to take the helm of the DHL Stormers in their final Vodacom Super Rugby match of the season against the Vodacom Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
De Villiers has been out for the past two weeks with the same sternum injury that plagued him in the build-up to the last Castle Lager Incoming Series match against Samoa at Loftus, where he led the Springboks to a big morale boosting victory.
“Jean will be fine for this game and we’re looking forward to having him back against the Bulls,” said coach Allister Coetzee when he hosted a media conference at the High Performance Centre in Bellville on Monday afternoon.
“Unfortunately it’s not the same for Tiaan. He’s going to be out for another week. Duane Vermeulen is also ready to start training again, but he wouldn’t be ready for the Bulls game. If we had another game the following week there might have been a chance, and the same with Andries Bekker, who has also made a good recovery from injury.”
Bekker’s non-availability for this week effectively means his Stormers career is over as he is due to continue his career in Japan.
Vermeulen’s good recovery from injury is good news for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who has lost Pierre Spies for the season to injury, but it comes too late to make any difference for the injury-ravaged Stormers.
For the first time since 2009, the Stormers have failed to advance to the playoffs, but Coetzee has placed a strong emphasis on his team finishing the season with momentum that can be taken into the Currie Cup and next year’s competition.
“It’s important to create a winning culture. We had been doing that and then this year was a bit of set-back, so it’s crucial we start to make a habit of winning again so that we can carry that confidence forward. It’s also important for us to set up Newlands as a venue where opposing teams struggle against the Stormers. The only side we’ve lost to at home this season is the Crusaders, and we would like to make that the only defeat at Newlands for 2013.”
The Stormers are expected to welcome Rynhardt Elstadt back into the starting team for Saturday’s game.
“It will be good to have Rynhardt’s physicality back and he made a difference when he came on from the replacement’s bench in the second half against the Southern Kings last week,” said the coach.
Coetzee is unlikely to move Damian de Allende to the wing in order to accommodate the return of De Villiers. Instead De Allende is likely to move back to the bench, with De Villiers slotting straight into his No 12 jersey, thus reuniting his partnership with fellow Springbok centre Juan de Jongh.
With Jan Serfontein having been ruled out of the Bulls side this week, the match has lost one element of interest as the clash between the rival Springbok-laden midfields was being eagerly awaited.
“We don’t consider Damian to be a wing any longer and anyway we have players who are playing well in that position,” said Coetzee in reference to Gio Aplon, Bryan Habana and Gerhard van den Heever.
An adjustment to the back three may be necessary though should Joe Pietersen fail to recover from the lammie that is going to keep him off the training field until Wednesday. Coetzee said he would give the fullback until midweek to prove his fitness.