Cape Town – JD Moller is expected to return to the Stormers front-row for the first time since last April when the Cape team plays a Vodacom Super 14 warm-up fixture against Saracens at Newlands on Sunday.
It will be a welcome return for a player who was missed as much as star flanker Schalk Burger during the crucial closing stages of last year’s competition, when the loss of their earlier scrumming platform mitigated against the Stormers’ attempts to score the crucial four try bonus points that eventually left them tantalisingly short of semifinal qualification.
“I was injured in the early stages of the game against the Hurricanes. It was a freak injury, I just felt my shoulder go as a scrum collapsed. Initially I felt it was going to rule me out for just a month or two, but in the end I was out of the game for eight months, missing the entire Currie Cup season,” recalls Moller.
The Stormers scrum started like a house on fire in that Newlands match. They pushed the rated Hurricanes scrum off the ball in two early set-pieces, and the rapidly maturing Moller was in the forefront of a swarming effort from the host unit. But then came the injury, and although the Stormers won the game and remained unbeaten for the rest of the season, their scrumming authority waned.
“It was JD’s injury that made me realise that we could have a scrumming problem in the Cape and that we would have to make a concerted effort during the Currie Cup to unearth some young players that could help build up some depth,” said the Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus.
“I have put a massive focus on scrumming over the past few months, and the emergence of guys like JC Kritzinger and Wicus Blaauw, who are both good enough to do well at Super 14 level, was just part of it.”
The Stormers, in addition to the other coaches such as Gary Gold, who did a great job with the Bok scrum last year, will this season have the services of a specialist scrum coach in the form of former Province hooker Johan van Wyk.
At the end of the Super 14 season, Van Wyk will return to the Institute, with former Scotland international prop Matthew Proudfoot then taking over the WP forwards for the Currie Cup. Proudfoot is already in the Cape, and has been dispensing some of his expert advice on an individual basis to the Stormers front-row players.
“This is what I mean when I talk about scrumming culture, I want to make it something that WP is renowned for, it is such an important facet of the game and it is so crucial to any dreams of us being able to build a winning culture,” says Erasmus.
Needless to say, Erasmus is delighted to have Moller back in the mix following an extended layoff to enable his shoulder injury to recover. The big loosehead is not only fully rehabilitated from the injury, he has also benefitted from being part of the entire Stormers build-up to the new season, which started at the beginning of last November.
“I am now 100% recovered, the whole process has gone perfectly and I feel stronger than ever,” said Moller.
“I had seven and a half to eight months out of the game, where I was forced to watch from the sidelines, and as you know, that only serves to increase your hunger. Fortunately I was able to start taking full contact again from the beginning of November, which was when the Stormers started training for the Super 14.”
The Saracens match will be the perfect time for the Stormers to test their front-row depth as the English unit have a strong scrum, with former WP, Stormers and Springbok strongman Cobus Visagie a big part of the success that they have enjoyed. It is understood Visagie will be part of the Saracens tour party, it is unclear whether he will start the Newlands match.
Tickets for Sunday’s game go on sale on Tuesday at the Newlands offices and will cost R50 for reserved seating and R25 for standing. Season tickets are not valid for this game.
This article appeared on News 24 and is written by Gavin RichTweet