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Taute to debut against Cheetahs

Even though coach Allister Coetzee ruled several players out of consideration, he was on Wednesday still able to name a Stormers team for the first Super Rugby warm-up game that was pretty close to the combination won last year’s Currie Cup final for Western Province.

Damian de Allende, who played inside centre for the first time in the domestic decider against the Sharks in Durban last October, gets another chance to impress in that position alongside Juan de Jongh when the Stormers play the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday. Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers is one of the players unavailable for the season opener after having a cyst removed from his neck.

Injuries to Deon Fourie and Scarra Ntubeni are all that have prevented Coetzee from calling out the same pack that played in the Currie Cup decider. Nizaam Carr, normally a No 8, makes his comeback from injury in the experimental position of openside flank, while Lions hooker Martin Bezuidenhout will take up position between Stephen Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.

“I said earlier in the week that we have a lot of players among the backs that boast a lot of versatility, and the same can be said of the forwards,” said Coetzee.

“We know Nizaam has played most of his rugby as a No 8 or blindside flank, and his best position is No 8, but this is an opportunity for us to experiment. Deon Fourie, normally a hooker, was outstanding at openside flank when we used him there last season, and we know we have Schalk Burger who plays that position. Siya Kolisi is unavailable due to illness and he played all his rugby last season as a No 6.

“Those players will all be back in the mix shortly, so this is our chance to see what Nizaam can do in that position. As I say, we have a lot of versatility and depth among our loose-forwards at the moment.”

Duane Vermeulen leads the team from No 8 in the absence of Burger, De Villiers and Fourie, all of whom led the Cape premier team at different stages of 2012 (Fourie captaining WP to their success in the Currie Cup).

Apart from Bezuidenhout, the other Lions player to make his debut for the Stormers in this game is fullback Jaco Taute. The Springbok is back in his best position after playing outside centre for the national team and the Lions towards the end of last year. Taute’s selection relegates Joe Pietersen, one of the heroes of the Currie Cup win, to a bench role in Bloemfontein.

Two further former Lions players, Pat Cilliers and Michael Rhodes, both of whom have signed long-term contracts with WP as opposed to being on loan like the other players from that franchise, are on the bench. So is former Lions under-21 lock Ruan Botha, who has made a good early impression since moving to the Cape.

With Elton Jantjies away on compassionate leave following the death of his father, and Gary van Aswegen still making his way back in his latest comeback from injury, Kurt Coleman gets his chance to show what he can do to add depth to the No 10s, a position where a crisis developed when Peter Grant and Van Aswegen were injured in 2010.

Overall, there appears to be a lot more depth available to the Stormers, and the team selected for the Cheetahs game reflects it as there are many players who were not considered.

“There are no major injury issues, it’s just a case of some players having minor niggles that we don’t want to risk while others need an extra week of conditioning. They should all be considered for the second warm-up game against Boland,” said the coach.

Apart from Burger, De Villiers, Kolisi, Jantjies and Fourie, other players not considered this week include Andries Bekker, Tiaan Liebenberg and Rynhardt Elstadt.

STORMERS: Jaco Taute, Gio APlon, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Kurt Coleman, Louis Schreuder, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Don Armand, Nizaam Carr, De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Martin Bezuidenhout, Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, Pat Cilliers, Ruan Botha, Michael Rhodes, Rayn SMid, Dewaldt Duvenage, Pat Howard, Gerhard van den Heever, Joe Pietersen.


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