An uncharacteristically brazen Allister Coetzee has opted for explosiveness over experience in the selection of a Stormers side evidently built for all-out attack against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
“There’s a big difference between being confident in the ability of the team and being arrogant,” the Stormers coach said yesterday after opting to rest Springbok centre Juan de Jongh and naming six players under the age of 23 in the starting line-up.
The former Lions contingent of Jaco Taute, Elton Jantjies, Pat Cilliers and hooker Martin Bezuidenhout will make their first official appearances for the Stormers, while scrumhalf Nic Groom and centre Damian de Allende will make their Super Rugby debut.
Stalwarts Dewaldt Duvenage and Joe Pietersen will start off the bench.
“If we were playing in a semi-final this weekend, Juan would have played,” Coetzee said in reference to De Jongh’s recovery from a hamstring strain.
“He ran pain-free in training today, but I don’t want to risk him.”
Not too long ago, Coetzee would have salvaged his togs from a box in the garage if he thought it might give the Stormers any advantage against the three-time champions.
This season, the Stormers clearly believe they have the upper hand in the South African conference, and two such titles make it difficult to argue with that line of thinking.
The precautionary move to rest De Jongh is a breath of fresh air for those who have watched niggles turn into full-blown injuries over the past two seasons – Jean de Villiers missed last year’s Currie Cup play-offs after limping from the league finale against the Cheetahs with a tender hamstring.
A standout in last year’s Currie Cup final, De Allende has been named to start at No 12, with De Villiers leading the side from outside centre.
“Damian is a great player,” said De Villiers. “You wouldn’t think he’s playing in his first Super Rugby game. He enjoys what he’s doing, and he’s very good at what he does. I’m excited about playing with him.”
De Villiers’s excitement was tempered by the disappointing prognosis of Schalk Burger’s injury – the 68-Test flanker has been ruled out until at least the round-six clash with the Brumbies (March 23).
“Schalk will be missed whenever he’s not playing – as a player, a leader and for the brutality he brings to the pack,” De Villiers said.
STORMERS:15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gerhard van den Heever, 22 Joe Pietersen
Kick-off: 7.10pm Friday - Cape Argus