Stormers coach Allister Coetzee admits players can force their way into the starting line-up with a strong performance in Saturday’s match against Boland.
The match at the Cape Town Stadium will be the Stormers’ second and final pre-season warm-up match before last year’s semifinalists kick-off their Super Rugby campaign against the Bulls at Loftus on February 22.
Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers will captain an overhauled Stormers side and Coetzee says the clash should give him more clarity on his matchday 23 for the season opener against their arch-rivals.
Coetzee referenced the battles for the key No.9 and No.10 jerseys as well as his back row and midfield stocks.
“Players still have to play for positions,” Coetzee said. “We’ve got three good scrumhalves [Dewaldt Duvenage, Louis Schreuder and Nic Groom] who bring different things to the team so with the Bulls in mind, I have to make sure I get the right combinations.”
Coetzee praised Kurt Coleman for his man of the match performance in the 27-26 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend and said he was looking forward to see how he follows it up on Saturday.
Elton Jantjies was set to wear the No.10 jersey in the warm-up matches but withdrew following the death of his father Thomas Jantjies.
However, Coetzee said with Jantjies set to rejoin the squad on Sunday and chukkas amongst the squad and Vodacom Cup squad scheduled for Wednesday, the Springbok flyhalf will have an opportunity to stake his claim.
“It’s good to see that Kurt gets another opportunity to play. He was out last season with an injury and he’s back now and will play his second game in the Stormers set up,” said Coetzee.
“I have no doubt that we will have enough training sessions with Elton Jantjies to give him an opportunity to start the first game.
“He’s returning on Sunday and we have a couple of tough sessions left next week so we have two flyhalves and Kurt is strongly in contention.
Coetzee said Schalk Burger’s unavailability was a blow but said the returns of Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt from injury give the Stormers depth in the back row.
“It’s unfortunate about Schalla but it’s good to have Siya and Rynhardt back and fully fit with no niggles and nothing holding them back.
“Especially in the loose forward positions you want to see your players operate at 100 percent and I’m happy that it will be Duane’s [Vermeulen’s] second game which gives us continuity.”
The Stormers have some injury worries in the midfield with Springbok centre Juan de Jongh and the promising JP du Plessis sidelined.
As a result, Coetzee has opted for De Villiers at outside centre, where he captained the Springboks last year, and the hard-running Damian de Allende at No.12 for the weekend's friendly.
Explaining the selection, Coetzee said: “Jean is the more experienced player. He’s played 13 at international level and with it being a challenge defensively for any player in Super Rugby, you don’t want to see a youngster there.”
Coetzee added: “The challenge will be at 13 but we have a back up in Pat Howard with JP du Plessis still injured. Bryan [Habana] and Jaco Taute could also play there.”
Coetzee said the new recruits have slotted in well and had special praise for hooker Martin Bezuidenhout and young lock Ruan Dreyer.
“For a hooker to join the team on a Monday and play the Saturday to learn the new line-out system and calling system, I must say he’s the right guy to have here. The new players are settling in well. There’s a lot of information to absorb and they’re coping well.
“Ruan has done well. He’s still Under-21 but he will be part of our big squad. We’re blessed with locks but he’s got it. He needs to develop but he’s surrounded by the right people to learn from. I’m sure we’ll call on his number later this season.”