Stormers fans may be spared the sight of Gus Theron running out in jersey 13 against the Cats next Saturday. Innovative thinking by the Stormers coaching staff could see a reworked backline, with Werner Greeff slotting alongside Jean de Villiers in the midfield.
Dependant on the fitness of captain De Wet Barry, at this stage likely to miss the opening encounter of the competition, Keo.co.za has learnt that Greeff is likely to be reborn as outside centre – albeit temporarily.
Barry is expected to make the second clash of the year, the home meeting with the Waratahs, and Marius Joubert should be available after the first three rounds.
The implications of relegation and the importance of making a good start mean that Greeff’s ability to adapt to yet another position is vital. An away win, followed by a run of home matches, could ensure ‘relegation’ becomes a punchline rather than a reason for concern in Cape Town.
If necessitated, the decision by Kobus van der Merwe, Gary Gold and the coaching staff to shift Greeff to 13 has to be applauded both for its innovation and solid reasoning.
Theron does not grasp the defensive requirements of outside centre. His inability to maintain composure and hands that fumble with regularity outweigh his natural pace. Pre-season games have shown that nothing has changed.
The other option is Bolander Piet van Zyl, who was given two starts (the only player in the squad who was given two opportunities) against the Spears and Bulls to allow him to settle into the role.
Ineffective distribution in both fixtures, however, seem set to consign Van Zyl to a season on the sidelines. Simply put, he was overawed and out of his depth.
The decision to move Greeff to 13 exhibits the coaching team’s determination to allow De Villiers to settle at 12, a policy that stands in complete contrast to that of Gert Smal’s last year.
It means that Joe Pietersen is the likely candidate to slot in at fullback. Defensively frail, Pietersen is in the mould of Brent Russell, and counter-attacks effectively.
Cynics will identify Greeff’s lack of pace as a reason for criticism, but ultimately the alternatives of either Theron or Van Zyl are not any more encouraging.
PROBABLE STARTING BACKLINE
9. Bolla Conradie
10. Peter Grant
11. Jongi Nokwe
12. Jean de Villiers
13. Werner Greeff
14. Rayno Benjamin
15. Joe Pietersen