Nic Groom’s ability to deal with the “mess” at the breakdowns has won him a starting spot for the Stormers against the Crusaders, while Rynhardt Elstadt’s shoulder injury has ruled him out of the tour.
Coach Allister Coetzee said from Christchurch yesterday that Groom’s selection was also an opportunity for him to prove that he should be the No1 scrumhalf ahead of Louis Schreuder, who drops to the bench after two lacklustre performances.
Coetzee made four changes to the starting line-up yesterday and will have three new faces on the bench on Saturday, with flyhalf Peter Grant and Samoan wing Sailosi Tagicakibau set to make their first appearances for the Stormers this season.
“You don’t want to wait too long to see who is going to be the No1. It’s been two games and it’s time to rotate and give Groom a start and see how he will go. I can then decide on the pecking order,” the coach said.
“It’s going to be a mess out there. One thing about playing New Zealand teams is that the breakdown is always a mess and you need a No9 who will be prepared to back you in the trenches. Louis is a fantastic player and once he’s got the time, we can use his kicking game to the fullest – we can have his sniping runs also.
“But New Zealand teams put on massive pressure at the breakdown. Hopefully Groomy, being short and stocky, can handle that.”
Elstadt’s shoulder injury has worsened to such an extent that he will be out for between four and six weeks. He is the third second-rower who is not available, along with Eben Etzebeth and Manuel Carizza.
But the biggest selection call yesterday was the omission of Siya Kolisi and the reinstatement of Schalk Burger to the starting line-up. The coach said Kolisi has a shoulder niggle, but it is understood he has been left out due to a perceived lack of form.
Burger, though, made little impact against the Lions, lasting just over 30 minutes before being replaced due due to a groin strain that also kept him out of the win over the Hurricanes.
“Siya Kolisi obviously has an AC joint injury. He recovered sufficiently, but I don’t want Siya to play with niggles. I’m giving Siya a week off to get the AC in a better condition, and hopefully by next week it would be just fine. It has had an influence on his game.
“There are a few things Siya has not done properly, which is obviously because of the niggle,” Coetzee said.
“So I think it’s critical he recovers fully before he plays again. These are tough games, and I wouldn’t want Siya’s game to suffer because of a niggle.”
If Kolisi had to be left out for any reason, a more feasible solution may have been to shift Duane Vermeulen to blindside flank and bring in Nizaam Carr, who has been one of the better forwards this year, at No8 as that is his specialist position. Vermeulen has played a lot of Super Rugby at No7, and then Burger could come off the bench.
With Elstadt flying home, WP Under-21 player Jurie van Vuuren has been called up to the Stormers squad.
It is a big surprise as Tazz Fuzani played Currie Cup rugby last year and should be the next lock in line, but Coetzee said he has been recovering from a rib injury in the last three weeks.
“Jurie replaces Rynhardt, who is a front lock and seven flank, that was what I was looking for. The second thing is that Tazz has just come back from a rib injury, and Tazz hasn’t had contact for a long time, even in training – he might be selected for the Vodacom Cup now,” the coach said.
“I am monitoring Tazz and will get feedback.
“I think this boy (Van Vuuren) has got a flippin’ big heart.
“He played against Boland, and we saw enough to look closer at Jurie. He’s got great line-out ability and as a blindside flank, he runs very hard and tight lines.”
The two new locks, Michael Rhodes and De Kock Steenkamp (both 1,97m), will face arguably the biggest test of their lives in the line-outs against classy All Blacks jumpers Sam Whitelock (2,02m), Dominic Bird (2,06m) and Luke Romano (1,99m).
Jaco Taute, Kobus van Wyk, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Gio Aplon, Demetri Catrakilis, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Deon Fourie, De Kock Steenkamp, Michael Rhodes, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Oliver Kebble, Pat Cilliers, Ruan Botha, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Peter Grant, Sailosi Tagicakibau. - The Star