Coetzee: ‘Deon is No 1′

Allister Coetzee tells JON CARDINELLI why Deon Fourie has earned the right to start against the Bulls in what will be a season-defining match on Saturday.

Tiaan Liebenberg’s powerful scrummaging, pinpoint lineout throws and robust ball-carrying made him one of the heroes of the Stormers’ 2010 campaign. When Liebenberg was sidelined with a serious knee injury in the 2011 pre-season, it was feared that Fourie would battle to fill the void and the Stormers would suffer as a result.

The fears were certainly justified during the initial stages of the Super Rugby competition when Fourie’s wayward lineout feeds compromised the Stormers’ best attacking platform. He still managed to contribute with some ground-gaining and at times galvanising ball-in-hand displays, but it was some time before he found his radar at the lineout.

While gradual, his improvement in this area has seen him solidify his spot in the run-on side. Even though Liebenberg is fit and ready for action in an important, set-piece oriented clash, Fourie is being favoured.

‘Deon started at Loftus and starred in those two big wins over the Sharks,’ Coetzee told keo.co.za. ‘He’s our No 1 hooker, so it’s an easy decision to pick him to start against the Bulls.

‘It’s great to have two hookers like Deon and Tiaan available. I’m sure Tiaan will have a terrific impact when he comes on in the second half, but I can’t justify starting him ahead of Deon at the moment.’

On the topic of the lineout, Coetzee spoke at length about the effort of the collective as opposed to the brilliance of individuals. The Stormers boast one of the best lineout exponents in Andries Bekker while the Bulls have Springbok legend Victor Matfield in their side, but Coetzee feels the team that performs as a unit will emerge victorious.

The Stormers have come a long way since they last met the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld. They managed to beat the Bulls on that occasion, but the lineout was one of the few areas where they were outplayed by the opposition. They’ve improved their accuracy since that clash, but will still be under pressure to get the best of Matfield and company.

Coetzee has also opted for a 5/2 split on the bench in anticipation of a massive forward onslaught. Two young props in Frans Malherbe and Stephen Kitshoff are being backed to do the business against one of the most physical teams in the tournament.

‘I have full confidence in their abilities,’ said the Stormers’ coach. ‘Sometimes you have to blood youngsters in a situation where it can make or break them. In that respect, these two have done well, especially a guy like Stephen. It’s been great to watch him come through.

‘We’ve picked five forwards on the bench because we know what to expect from the Bulls,’ Coetzee added. ‘You need to match their intensity for the full 80 minutes, and so it’s great to know we have these two fine young props, as well as a few other players like Nick Koster who can keep the momentum going in the second half.’

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