Kurt Coleman threw his name into the hat for the Stormers flyhalf berth with a man of the match performance against the Cheetahs on Saturday.
Coleman, who finds himself behind new recruit Elton Jantjies, incumbent flyhalf Peter Grant and the injured Gary van Aswegen in the pivot pecking order, sent a message to coach Allister Coetzee as he kicked 11 points and orchestrated a try for Damian de Allende with a deft chip.
The 23-year-old, who was omitted from the Stormers squad for last year’s Super Rugby campaign and missed most of Western Province’s triumphant Currie Cup campaign due to a broken jaw, felt he laid down a marker in his team’s 27-26 defeat.
Springbok flyhalf Jantjies was set to wear the No.10 jersey in Saturday’s Reconciliation Challenge as well as in the Stormers’ second pre-season warm-up clash with Boland at Cape Town Stadium next weekend.
However, Jantjies withdrew from the warm-up matches following the death of his father Thomas Jantjies, who passed away after complications from a bee sting last Saturday.
Coleman said the support he has received from the squad as stand-in boosted his confidence ahead of the match at the Free State Stadium.
“Thank you to the team for backing me all the way, it’s been a tough three-month pre-season but we are ready to go into the season,” said Coleman.
Coleman admitted the team had some off-season rust and struggled to maintain the pace and intensity of the game for the full 80 minutes.
“Obviously after the pre-season we weren’t used to game pace so the lungs are burning a bit but as we go on in the season the guys will get used to it."
Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen rued the visitors’ error count and inability to close out the game after they had established a 16-3 lead.
“It was a tough one. Luckily it was our first game because we have a lot to work on. We were in control in some stages of the game but mistakes crept in and they capitalised,” said Vermeulen.
Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss said the home supporters willed the team to their last-gasp victory and praised the initiative to have a soccer fixture as a curtain-raiser.
“It was good fun. We had great support here today and they carried us through to the last minute. I think it’s a great initiative and it paid off for us today,” he said.
The Springbok vice-captain was understandably pleased with his team’s second-half performance.
“I’m very happy with the second half. We were a bit a flat-footed in the first half, we couldn’t stop their drive and we ran out of our half and they caught us there. Their defence is really good. In the second half the guys did great. I’m just proud of the guys, as always they showed character,” he said.