Russell’s Stormers premier pivot

Vodacom Western Province coach Kobus van der Merwe has assured Brent Russell that he will play at flyhalf in 2007 Vodacom Super 14.

Russell, who for years has stated his preference for the position, has had to be content with fulfilling a utility back role at both provincial and international level.

Now the “Pocket Rocket” has received a significant vote of confidence from Van der Merwe and said he relishes the opportunity to show world rugby’s fraternity that he has the aptitude for the role.

“I spoke to Kobus right after the Sharks gave me the green light and we discussed the big challenge of me playing flyhalf in the Super 14,” Russell told Mike Greenaway of The Mercury.

“It is very exciting for me, and also very challenging and I am looking at it as a new team, a new position and hopefully a revitalised career. I think this move could not have been better timed.

“I felt that my career was heading for a crossroads and if I did not move to a team that gave me more opportunity, then I might never again get back to my best form.”

Russell though will face stern opposition for the No 10 jersey in the Cape. Naas Olivier has held the starting berth for the duration of the Absa Currie Cup, but Peter Grant will also come into the reckoning when he recovers from injury.

Another rising star in the WP ranks is U21 flyhalf Isma-eel Dollie, who produced a series of mercurial performances in their provincial campaign, has an outside chance of forcing his way into the Stormers Vodacom Super 14 squad.

Slotting in at fullback could be equally challenging for the 26-year-old Russell.

Gio Aplon has been one of the outstanding performers this season and Van der Merwe will surely be reluctant to replace him. Conrad Jantjes, another recent acquisition from the Lions has played Test rugby in the position as has Werner Greeff, ensuring that competition for places in the run-on side will be fierce.