Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is using his side’s final Super Rugby warm-up game, against Boland in Wellington on Saturday, as a opportunity to test the depth of his training squad and to give some promising youngsters a chance to impress.
Coetzee explained his decision to give an opportunity to some of the younger players in the squad to stake a claim to get into the final thirty man Super Rugby squad.
“The thinking behind it is really simple – we see it as an important game in terms of our preparation. We need to get these players to get extra gametime to be ready when it comes to selection for [the start of Super Rugby] next weekend.
“I have to back all 38 players who have gone on [training] camp with us, because you never know how many injuries you will pick up during the course of this competition and if I don’t back them now, I will never back them.
“They know they’ve got to perform like a player who we can call on anytime to step up in Super Rugby.”
The coach has is looking to Oliver Kebble to add depth to his loosehead prop stocks ahead of the campaign. The young prop starts alongside two Springboks in Tiaan Liebenberg and Pat Cilliers in the front row on Saturday.
“Oliver Kebble has come through nicely, he’s a promising young talent. He played 20 minutes against the Bulls and 30 minutes against the Kings and did well on both occasions.
“It was always a tough ask for Steven Kitshoff to be your only loosehead prop in the mix, to continuously play every game and come up with good performances – now we have a promising youngster like Kebble to share the workload.
“I would like to develop Oliver – he will definitely play a significant role off the bench [this season],” he added.
Another youngster who would have been hoping to impress the coaching staff is 21-year-old outside back Pat Howard, but he misses out through injury.
“Unfortunately you don’t see Pat Howard on the [team] list. He would have started but did his hamsting in training this morning [Monday]. It’s definitely worse than a grade one tear and he will probably be out for a minimum of two weeks”.
Coetzee has strength in depth in the loose forward department with the likes of Duane Vermuelen, Siya Kolisi, Schalk Burger, Deon Fourie and Nizaam Carr available to him but is looking out for those next in line to put their hands up.
“Guys like [blindside flank] Sikumbuzo Notshe, he’s been on camp with us and he’s looking good for the next loose forward back up, along with Rohan Kitshoff and Rayn Smid. Notshe is one of those up and coming youngsters”.
Coetzee admitted that there is a scarcity of scrumhalves in the province. The Stormers have their two established players in Nic Groom and Louis Schreuder, but looking past that pair the coach acknowledged that they are lacking in experience for back-up but there are “a whole of of young scrumhalves” who he can take a look at including WP Under-21 scrumhalf Godlen Masimla and last year’s SA Schools scrumhalf Justin Phillips.
“Godlen is a good player and needs to play with some experienced players around him and hopefully we see the best of him this weekend.
“Justin Phillips will be on the bench, he’s still [recently graduated] from school and been at the institiute so we will expose him to this kind of rugby of see how he goes,” Coetzee added.
Coetzee said he was satisfied with the progress of centre Michael van der Spuy who would get a chance to start against Boland, and although not in the side for this weekend another ‘youngster knocking on the door’ is 19-year-old utility back Ryno Eksteen who can play fullback and flyhalf.
Yet another youngster to watch out for is 2013 SA Schools player and former Grey College student EW Viljoen who gets a start on the right wing against Boland.
Aside from young players, the former Springbok assistant coach is happy with the progress of some of his senior campaigners ahead of their opening Super Rugby match against the Lions.
Rynhardt Elstadt will “definitely be fit for the Lions”, according to the coach, after injuring a rib against the Southern Kings, while Jean de Villiers will be ready for the start of the competition “witout a doubt” as the slight rupture of the eardrum he suffered will be healed by then.
Coetzee is confident that Schalk Burger is fit and ready to go.
“Schalla has played eighty minutes against the Bulls at altitude and he’s done well and again in his forty minutes this weekend [against the Kings] it was another quality performance. So he’s done 120 minutes, there’s no doubt about his fitness – no injuries, no niggles, nothing,” the coach said.
De Kock Steenkamp should be out for minimum of three more weeks with a groin injury, Juan de Jongh still has five weeks to go in recovery from his knee injury, while Eben Etzebeth is on course to return to action after his ankle injury in the middle of May.