Van Aswegen in Stormers hot seat

Gary van Aswegen will start at flyhalf against the Lions this Friday and appears to be the favourite for the position in the coming Super Rugby competition.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has picked his strongest possible side for the pre-season clash at Newlands. Schalk Burger is back to skipper the side after sitting out of last week’s hit-out in Wellington, while a whole host of established players return to the line-up for the first serious warm-up for the Cape franchise.

Coetzee has excluded several frontline players due to injury. Lock Andries Bekker and No 8 Duane Vermeulen are only expected to be fit for the fourth pre-season clash with the Kings while lock Rynhardt Elstadt could play against the Cheetahs next week. Dewaldt Duvenage will start training with the squad next week and Wicus Blaauw is also expected to be back in the mix.

Otherwise Coetzee maintains that the side selected is one of his strongest. Van Aswegen has been entrusted with the flyhalf duties and the Stormers coach has hinted that the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer look alike could play himself into the starting side for that opening Super Rugby game against the Hurricanes on 25 February.

Since Peter Grant is currently in Japan and won’t be back until the Kobe Steelers are knocked out of that local club tournament, Van Aswegen has a chance to make the No 10 shirt his own.

‘Gary suffered from a serious injury in last year’s Currie Cup and we want him to play as much as possible alongside Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh [in these pre-season games],’ said Coetzee. ‘We’ve got to build some momentum and ensure that these combinations gel.

‘I’m not sure exactly when Peter will be back or whether he will come back in one piece, so we have to push on with our plans. Gary has looked very sharp and he has a big opportunity now.’

Coetzee added that matches against the Lions and Cheetahs would serve as good preparation ahead of the competition proper and that he and his assistant coaches would be focusing on quality of performance rather than the scoreline.

Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Louis Schrueder, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 De Kock Steennkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steve Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Don Armandt, 20 Reuben Johannes, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Burton Francis, 24 Marcel Brache, 25 Gerhard van den Heever, 26 Danie Poolman.

By Jon Cardinelli