Powerful Stormers preparing to peak
12 Apr 2012
Allister Coetzee believes that the Stormers forwards are ready to produce their most physical showing to date.
At the start of the season, Coetzee spoke about the challenges of a Super Rugby season that runs from February to August. Player management was always going to be difficult, and getting his charges to peak at the right moments was also viewed as a testing task.
In a way, injuries have helped the team’s cause in terms of rotation. Of the 14 forwards used in this year’s campaign, Duane Vermeulen, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Tiaan Liebenberg and Steven Kitshoff have started all six matches. But because of an injury to Schalk Burger, 20-year-old rookie Siya Kolisi has started five matches thus far. When Rynhardt Elstadt and Deon Fourie were sidelined, Nizaam Carr and Scara Ntubeni also got opportunities, albeit from the bench.
When Elstadt returned to Super Rugby, the Stormers management opted to push him into the starting line-up at the expense of Nick Koster. The team has obtained the desired result on each occasion but in the process the Stormers have developed some depth. A clutch of youngsters, read Kolisi, Etzebeth and Kitshoff, have gained some much needed experience as frontline players.
The youngsters have gathered momentum, and so too have the seniors. Both Bekker and Vermeulen returned to the playing field in early 2012 after lengthy injury lay-offs. Vermeulen has wasted little time in resuming his brutal role, while Bekker’s progress has been more gradual. Some may feel the rangy lock is not dominating as he should, but they forget that after a long time on the sideline, a player usually needs a bit of time to get back to his best.
It’s for this reason that we should expect big things from the Stormers pack when they tackled their much-fancied Crusaders counterparts. The Stormers forwards have passed every test to date, but there is a sense that they’ve been gearing up for this battle for some time. They’ve picked up some momentum, and they aren’t going to slow down in Christchurch.
‘It’s been our policy to manage and assess players on a weekly basis,’ Coetzee told keo.co.za from the Stormers’ base in Queenstown. ‘We won’t rest players for the sake of resting them. We also look at individuals when making these calls, but usually if a player is playing well then we see no reason why he shouldn’t continue.
‘We have managed our players well thus far, and we will continue to look at rotation as the tournament wears on. Brok Harris comes back this week for Frans Malherbe. Siya Kolisi came in for Schalk Burger at the start of the season too. We will look at [managing] Andries Bekker and Duane Vermeulen in the coming weeks, and will wait on the news of Nick Koster’s availability. We know that in such a long competition you have to box carefully.’
The Stormers are coming off two forward-oriented battles with the Bulls and Highlanders. They are also wary of the manner in which they were beaten by the Crusaders in 2011, first in the league clash, and then in the semi-final.
‘It really doesn’t get any easier for us, and every game on this tour is going to be physically taxing,’ said Coetzee. ‘The Crusaders outplayed us physically in the last two matches. We have worked hard and I’ve been pleased that [in recent matches] we have maintained our physical intensity. We will have to do so again against the Crusaders.
‘I also feel we got it tactically wrong on both occasions [against the Crusaders last year]. So we have looked at all of that and formulated a plan. We were our own worst enemies in those matches, so we’ve got to get it right this Saturday, we have to apply the pressure at the set pieces and be more accurate.’
By Jon Cardinelli