Stormers and Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold believes that the franchise’s head coach Rassie Erasmus has done a great job of ensuring that there will be the necessary healthy competition for places during the coming Super 14 season.
Gavin Rich writes for Superrugby that JD Moller is back in the front-row after a long injury lay-off and is expected to make his return to the playing field against Saracens at Newlands on Sunday, but although the sturdy loosehead’s return has been welcomed by the management, Gold does not believe anyone among the Stormers front-row players will be able to rest easy.
“One of the things that may be different this year in comparison to last season is the competition for places in some key areas,” said Gold.
“Last year we struggled after we lost JD to injury, but this season we have Wicus Blaauw who has gained a great deal in experience. On the tighthead side we have Brian Mujati, who now has international experience, and we also have Brok Harris, who has been playing for a couple of seasons now and is maturing rapidly.
“But with someone like young JC Kritzinger in the background and pushing, you cannot say that anyone can be complacent, for we don’t know at this stage just how good JC could be. It is a healthy position for us to be in.”
An area that many opponents might pinpoint as a potential Stormers weakness is the depth at lock. A year ago the Stormers had Ross Skeate and Francois van der Merwe pushing the first choices Adriaan Fondse and Andries Bekker, but both players have left for France, leaving a potential hole.
While he agrees that no-one would be able to effectively replace Bekker, one of the finds of the international season last year, should he be injured, Grant does not believe that veteran AJ Venter will be caught short if called upon.
“Everyone was judging AJ on how he fared as a loose-forward in last year’s Currie Cup. Perhaps that was unfair, for at 35 he should not be expected to keep pace with other players in that position. Lock though is a different story, and I really don’t think that a fit and motivated AJ need stand back for any other player in the Super 14.
“For the other back-up lock position we have brought down Hilton Lobberts from Pretoria. He has played most of his rugby at loose-forward, but he has shown himself in the preparation stages to the new season to be an incredibly hard working and aggressive front lock who is more than capable of backing up Fondsie.”
Gold is looking forward to see the Stormers depth being tested by Saracens at Newlands on Sunday.
“Not for nothing were Saracens in a recent Heineken Cup semi-final, where they lost to the eventual winners. They beat the Ospreys on the way there, and we know how good the Ospreys are, so we will be expecting a massive battle against the Saracens,” said Gold.
“They are in season whereas we are just starting out, and we all know that Eddie Jones, apart from being an astute coach, also has a massive amount of personal pride. Although for neither of us is this a competition game, both teams will have a lot to prove and a lot to learn from the fixture.”Tweet