Success comes at a price for injury-hit Stormers

2012-05-25 00:00

THE depth in the Sharks squad, and the quality of their replacement bench, could prove a decisive factor when they face the log-leading Stormers in the Super Rugby derby crunch game at King’s Park tomorrow night.

While the Sharks, with their late season revival, suddenly have a spring in their step, the Stormers’ hard and successful slog — with 10 victories in 11 outings — has taken its toll on their players.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee battled, and failed, this week to hire an overseas loose forward to boost his depleted ranks. The Sharks’ John Plumtree, in contrast, had the luxury of three Springbok backrow forwards on his bench against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last Saturday and this week has omitted one, flank Jean Deysel, from his 22-man squad to face the Stormers.

The depth extends beyond the backrow, and the injury to Pat Lambie last week resulted in Freddie Michalak’s returning and producing a match-winning performance against the Cheetahs.

This week centre Tim Whitehead has pulled up lame, but Plumtree has a ready-made replacement in former Springbok Meyer Bosman.

The Stormers have been hit by a string of injuries at loose forward with Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen, Nick Koster and Nizaam Carr all sidelined, and Coetzee has spent the last few weeks scouring overseas rugby clubs for quality replacements.

He has already signed Canadian Jebb Sinclair, who will play at number eight tomorrow, but Coetzee was desperately looking for a second hired gun to help the Stormers through the next fortnight and into the June break.

Attempts to arrange for former Western Province Springbok Francois Louw, the Saracens’ Ernst Joubert, former Bull international Danie Rossouw and, this week, United States captain Todd Clever have all failed.

News24 reported that squabbling in the WP Rugby Union scuppered the promising Clever deal and Coetzee is now resigned to using players from the successful Vodacom Cup team.

“We’ll put faith in the young men in the Western Province,” he said and he has included the talented but inexperienced WP captain Nick Fenton-Wells on the Stormers’ bench for tomorrow.

Coetzee said Burger and Koster should be ready for the home game against the Lions on June 30.

“It’s only for the next two matches — against the Sharks and Bulls — where we’ll struggle with depth,” said Coetzee.

Coetzee will see the irony in the predicament facing Plumtree who has been trying to squeeze six quality loose forwards into three. Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and Marcell Coetzee have been his first-choice loose forwards for most of the Super Rugby campaign, while the return from injury of Springboks Willem Alberts, Ryan Kankowski and Deysel in the second half of the competition has provided him with options and variety.

The Stormers game promises to be fiercely physical contest and Plumtree has plumped for the bulk of Alberts rather than the mobility of Botes, who will join Kankowski on a talented and experienced bench.

The Stormers are priming themselves for a mighty battle and forward coach Matthew Proudfoot told reporters they would have to match the Sharks’ intensity on the night.

“They really are a momentum-based side and use their big ball-carriers — the Du Plessis brothers, the Beast, Alberts and Marcell Coetzee — to get across the advantage line and then they are very dangerous.

“They are a difficult side to play against because they have immense physicality. So we know up front it is going to be a tremendous battle.”

But Proudfoot said the Stormers would still be dangerous.

“If we can force some territory or force a couple of mistakes, we will create opportunities.”

The match kicks off at 7.10 pm and South African Jaco Peyper will be the referee.

Weekend’s fixtures (home team first)

Today: 8.35 am Chiefs vs Bulls

Tomorrow: 7.30 am Hurricanes vs Rebels

9.35 am Blues vs Highlanders

11.40 am Brumbies vs Reds

1.40 pm Force vs Lions

5.05 pm Cheetahs vs Waraths

7.10 pm Sharks vs Stormers.

Bye: Crusaders

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