Cape Town – Bolla Conradie’s future with the Stormers may hinge on his performance in the Super 14 rugby match against the Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday.
The Springbok scrumhalf will enjoy his first start of the season after coming off the bench a number of times to take over from Ricky Januarie, the other Springbok scrumhalf in the squad.
Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus has given his run-on halfbacks, Januarie and Peter Grant, a breather for this week. Former All Black flyhalf Tony Brown will partner Conradie.
This could be a calculated risk by Erasmus but key players have to be rested at this stage if any team hopes to play through to the final.
“Bolla has strong points that make him the right choice for this match,” Erasmus said on Thursday. “He kicks well and has a good service. His experience will mean a lot.”
However, Conradie will be under pressure to make the most of every opportunity he receives.
The Stormers’ decision to sign on Januarie brought Conradie out of his comfort zone. Januarie has been playing brilliantly and could be, on present form, selected to play for South Africa against Wales in June.
Stormers have more All Black experience
The 30-year-old Conradie is probably starting to feel the pressure, with young scrumhalves such as Conrad Hoffman and Paul Delport on his heels.
Conradie has an opportunity to prove himself against Jimmy Cowan, one of the two All Blacks in the Highlanders’ team.
Cowan has played in ten Test matches since his debut in 2004.
The only other Highlanders player with Test-match experience is the captain, flanker Craig Newby, who has played for New Zealand in three internationals.
Brown played in 18 Test matches, which means the Stormers have more All Black experience that the team from Dunedin.
For that reason, the Stormers should not have much trouble winning the match. If things go according to plan, Conradie will be able to prove the value of experience and stamp his mark on the game.
By signing Brown, Erasmus has shown how highly he values experience.
However, at this stage of his career, Conradie has to keep looking over his shoulder. An unimpressive performance could open the door to a player such as Hoffman to start playing Super 14 rugby next year.