Varsity Cup hero deserves Stormers chance

JON CARDINELLI writes that the Stormers should be backing UCT match-winner Demetri Catrakilis ahead of problem child Earl Rose.

The Stormers find themselves in a dire situation. Gary van Aswegen is crocked, while Lionel Cronje won’t be back until the play-offs. Peter Grant’s ankle injury is reportedly so bad that he could miss the end of the league stage. It’s a situation that threatens to compromise their push for a home semi-final.

The Cape franchise has already tried to sign Springbok Ruan Pienaar and former Stormers star Joe Pietersen for the remainder of the season. Both attempts have failed, as the players’ European clubs have demanded exorbitant amounts for injury insurance.

There is good reason to panic as the Super Rugby season nears the knockout stage. The Stormers are without a flyhalf, and they are also without a recognised goal-kicker. Securing Pienaar or Pietersen would have solved the latter problem.

They’ve backed Kurt Coleman in the position, but it’s clear the youngster is not ready for Super Rugby. Coleman was a bundle of nerves in his first start against the Brumbies last Saturday. He avoided contact as much as possible, and his lack of confidence led to handling errors and poor game management.

He was substituted as early as the 50th minute, a big statement by the coaches considering the Stormers didn’t have another specialist flyhalf in their match 22. Scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage was asked to step into the unfamiliar position for the second week running, but a heavy knock reduced his flyhalf cameo to 15 minutes.

The decision to call up Earl Rose is a shocker. Granted the Stormers are desperate for an experienced player in a crucial position, but what has Rose done to inspire any sort of confidence in the Stormers’ management? And with his disciplinary record, surely his inclusion will do more harm than good.

His problems with the Lions are well documented and his value as a Super Rugby player has come into question in the last 12 months. After being ditched by the Johannesburg franchise, he’s made a comeback of sorts at lowly Griquas. But he wasn’t considered for the Cheetahs’ Super Rugby squad as the central franchise favoured Sias Ebersohn and even the limited Naas Olivier.

That was a big statement of no confidence, so why should the Stormers believe he has anything to offer? Rassie Erasmus has worked hard to install a new culture since arriving in the Cape in 2008, and a player with Rose’s disciplinary record won’t fit in.

He’s also not the kind of player to add value to the Stormers’ playing systems. He’s a defensive liability and his inclusion would allow opposition teams easy access to the advantage line and beyond. Team-mates at the Lions used to complain about his erratic attack, as he’s not one to stick to the game plan.

The Stormers have been forced to back their young flyhalves in 2011, and one wonders why they don’t continue to do so. Demetri Catrakilis was the standout in UCT’s successful Varsity Cup campaign and has all the skills to be a success at the next level. He’s already in the Western Province systems, so it would make sense to bring him through.

You would think that his performances in the Varsity Cup would have inspired some confidence in his ability. His subsequent showings in the Vodacom Cup have highlighted his consistency, and you would think that somewhere at Western Province and the Stormers, there’s a coach that has plans for his promotion.

But the selection of Rose begs the question. The Stormers are sending the wrong message to their younger contingent by favouring Rose over Catrakilis. The latter can do a job for the side in the short term, an experience that will have long term benefits for his own career and ensure the Stormers develop their flyhalf depth for future seasons.

There needed to be some forward thinking before hitting that panic button. Picking Rose makes no sense in the context of the Stormers’ current campaign and will have no long term benefits for 2012 and beyond.

The Stormers are in a desperate situation, but they’ve made a mistake in backing a potentially destructive outsider. They have also missed the opportunity to develop one of their own.

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