Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has quashed rumours that Schalk Burger may be shifting positions during the coming Super 14 campaign.
Gavin Rich – Sport24
Recently appointed as Stormers captain for the season, Burger endured a difficult 2009 by his standards as first injury and then suspension ruled him out of playing a big role in the successful Springbok campaign.
With Heinrich Brussow excelling as an openside fetcher, there have been question marks over whether Burger would regain the No 6 jersey that has been his since 2004, and most of his international rugby last season was played at blindside flank.
This has led to speculation that Burger might be employed at No 7 by the Stormers, particularly as Francois Louw was so outstanding on the side of the scrum for Western Province in the Currie Cup, and was responsible for numerous turn-overs at the breakdown.
Former Springbok coach Jake White also used Burger at No 8 in a match during the 2007 World Cup, and there has been talk that the Stormers might like to try him there now that Luke Watson is playing his rugby for Bath in England.
However Coetzee is adamant that while there might just be the odd occasion when a horses for courses policy requires a temporary shift in position, the No 6 jersey will be the one that Burger wears in the Super 14.
“Obviously I cannot say now that he will never play No 8, but that is certainly not our plan at the moment,” said Coetzee.
“We all know that Schalk is one of the best openside flankers in the world, so why would we want to move him away from there? We would be crazy not to play to his strengths. We have Duane Vermeulen and Pieter Louw who can play No 8.”
At this stage former Free Stater Vermeulen, who played blindside flank for WP in the Currie Cup, looks the favourite to start at No 8 in the opening Super 14 match against the Lions in Johannesburg on Valentine’s weekend. However, Coetzee does have a high regard for Pieter Louw, who improved a lot as a player last year, while former Eastern Province player Jacques Potgieter, who can also play lock, has impressed the Stormers management in training sessions.
“We have a lot of talent at loose-forward. We have lost Luke Watson, but I don’t think anyone can complain about a lack of depth among the loose-forwards,” said Coetzee.
Indeed, there are a couple of youngsters who should also be factored in, with the WP under-21 fielding a talented loose trio last season, while Pieter Myburgh, a useful openside flank who made his Stormers debut two seasons ago, is now back from a long-term injury and challenging for a place in the team to play the pre-season friendlies.
The Stormers play the Force at Newlands on January 23, the Sharks at the same venue on January 29, and Boland in their final warm-up match before the Super 14 at the new Cape Town Stadium in Greenpoint on February 6.