Bloemfontein – Rumours that the Stormers are interested in the services of Cheetahs loose forwards Duanne Vermeulen and Juan Smith are heating up emotions before the Super 14 rugby match between the two teams at Newlands on Saturday.
The match is seen as a contest between Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské and Rassie Erasmus, who coached the side before taking the Stormers job in Cape Town.
Vermeulen and Smith, lock Barend Pieterse and prop Wian du Preez are said to be among the players in whom the Stormers have shown an interest.
To add fuel to the fire, there have been rumours that other franchises are looking at Richardt Strauss, Kabamba Floors and Rory Duncan. The Sharks are said to be interested in Smith and prop CJ van der Linde.
However, no negotiations may take place at this stage and Drotské says the stories are mere speculation.
“No union or coach may approach any contracted player before July,” the Cheetahs coach, who also handles the players’ contracts, said on Sunday.
Things look positive
“We are abiding by the rules and we hope other coaches do the same. There will always be speculation but at this stage, things look positive.”
Stephen Nell reports from Cape Town that the Stormers are treating the Cheetahs with much respect.
The Cape side enjoyed a bye at the weekend and dropped to eighth place on the Super 14 table while the Cheetahs recorded their first win of the year by beating the Reds 29-14 in Bloemfontein.
Stormers coach Rassie Eramus expects a “terribly difficult game”.
Free State had two players in the World Cup-winning Springbok squad last year and they won the Currie Cup, Erasmus pointed out on Sunday. Western Province also had two players in the national team but failed to reach the Currie Cup semi-finals.
Erasmus said the Cheetahs could have won five of the Super 14 matches that they lost this season. These were against the Lions (23-22), Western Force (16-15), the Chiefs (22-20), the Brumbies (29-23 and the Waratahs (23-19).
The Stormers, who have lost their two home matches, to the Bulls and Crusaders, are looking forward to playing in front of their own fans after earning 16 log points in four matches in Australasia. “We live to play at home,” Erasmus said.
The players trained on their own last week but will assemble in Durbanville on Monday.