Cape Town – The Stormers will give a pre-season indication of what one can expect from the Newlands-based franchise in the 2014 season when they run out against the Bulls at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.
The Stormers have also lined up the Southern Kings and Boland to prime them for their opening 2014 Super Rugby fixture against the Lions on February 22 in Johannesburg.
“Last year we made a slow start to our season and as a result we opted for three warm-up matches this time,” Allister Coetzee said in Bellville on Monday.
“Let me say from the outset that the results of these warm-up matches are not of primary importance but that does not mean we won't care about winning these matches.
“We are process driven and we have express intentions with each outing.”
Coetzee said the third match against Boland would give players coming back from injury a final chance to prove themselves before the tournament started. The first two games would give him a chance to test his players in the positions.
Right now we're battling with depth at lock. We're looking at players like Michael Rhodes and Ryhard Elstadt, who mostly played at flank last season, to play in the second row.
“With Schalk Burger back, we are blessed with excellent loose forward resources.
“With Cheslin Kolbe out for a while, we're rather thin in the back three (fullback and wings). Fullback Jaco Taute is back from injury but, at this stage, he's not quite ready to play in the opening match. We're also looking at Taute to play in the midfield later this season.”
Kolbe suffered a freak ankle injury at last week's pre-season camp in Hermanus after colliding with a team mate during a training session.
Locks Eben Etzebeth and De Kock Steenkamp were also on the injury list. The latter was battling with a groin injury which he suffered late last year while Etzebeth was expected to return to action in late April.
The Stormers and the Bulls had decided to use 26-man squads for Saturday's friendly.
“We have agreed to allow nine substitutes but once a player is off he cannot return,” Coetzee said.
“We'll try to do things we have not done previously and we'll communicate our intentions to the referee so that we stand to benefit with what we are doing in the match.
“This will be the Bulls' only pre-season friendly so the two teams' focus will be entirely different.”
In view of the concern about the lack of depth in certain areas, Coetzee had invited several local players to training and some of them would be given game time in the first two friendlies.
“We know we need to strengthen our player resources in some areas and we'll be looking at local talent first.
“Once we've assessed the situation we may have to look outside our province but our culture is such that we give local talent a chance to make the step up.” – Sapa