Tim Whitehead is likely to start at wing for the Stormers in Saturday’s Super 14 derby against the Sharks in Durban.
A “final call” on Springbok wing Bryan Habana will be made this morning, but he is unlikely to play after sustaining a knock to the ribs in last week’s victory over the Crusaders at Newlands.
It is not expected to keep him out for too long, and he should be ready to face his old team the Bulls at Newlands next week.
Whitehead pips the experienced Fabian Juries, who may have been a better option at wing, and utility back Frikkie Welsh to a starting berth if Habana is unavailable. It is believed that Juries may be released to join up with the Springbok Sevens team who are preparing in Stellenbosch for the next leg of the IRB Series in London on May 22-23.
“Tim will definitely come in at wing if Bryan can’t play,” Stormers forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot told the Cape Times yesterday. “Bryan didn’t train with us today (in a closed session in Bellville). We will make a final call on Bryan tomorrow morning.
“Tim has been training at wing all week. He did really well when he came on for Bryan against the Crusaders, and understands the position, having trained there at various stages this season.
“(Head coach) Allister Coetzee believes in continuity in selection and would like to pick the same team as far as possible. We are at a crucial stage of the competition and we can’t relax now.”
An elbow injury to Juan de Jongh saw Whitehead, who turns 22 on May 30, drafted into the starting line-up at inside centre against the Cheetahs in the last game before the tour to Australia and New Zealand.
Whitehead also started against the Western Force before De Jongh returned against the Blues. He performed reasonably well in both matches, and his experiences should stand him in good stead on Saturday.
Proudfoot said the fact that the Sharks don’t have anything to play for after being knocked out of the semi-final race last week by the Bulls at Loftus would “make them even more dangerous”.
The Stormers pack are bracing themselves for another massive onslaught from the Sharks, having come through strongly against a formidable Crusaders outfit last week.
“We knew that the Crusaders would come at us and look to put us under pressure at first phase, and the Sharks will look to do the same,” Proudfoot said yesterday.
“They played with huge physicality against the Bulls, and for 60 minutes, they almost dominated the Bulls. They have between six and eight Springboks in their pack in a particular game. It is up to us to front up to that challenge.
“The fact that the Sharks have nothing to play for really makes them even more dangerous. They have nothing to lose, and they are a very proud team. They also have lots of players who have been part of Springbok squads before, and they would want to be picked again this year.”
Proudfoot said that the Stormers want to learn from the Bulls’ performance. “We have to make sure that we win enough ball for our backs to do their thing, like they did against the Crusaders. Keeping ball-in-hand is key,” he said.
“The Bulls’ secret last week was to win their set phases and keep things simple upfront, and that’s what we are planning to do on Saturday.”
Proudfoot added that prop JC Kritzinger will be out for at least another week with a calf injury, and that fellow front-rower Wicus Blaauw may be ready for the Bulls game.