Allister Coetzee began the teleconference from Sydney by saying “it’s always a negative to start with” when he had to start speaking about the Stormers’ injury situation.
So let’s rather look at what could be a positive development for the beleaguered Cape side for Saturday’s clash against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Coetzee confirmed that Samoan wing Sailosi Tagicakibau will make his first start at left wing, as Jaco Taute is not available this week after he sustained another AC joint injury to his other shoulder.
Gio Aplon will move to fullback, but it is Tagicakibau who must prove his worth after coming on loan from English club London Irish. The 31-year-old is an experienced player with 24 Test caps and is a big man at 1.93m and 100kg, and he could just give the Stormers the spark they need on attack.
Tagicakibau played 34 minutes against the Crusaders and 46 against the Chiefs, and while he didn’t get many opportunities to carry the ball, he looked dangerous every time he touched it. He almost always beat the first defender and made good ground, and perhaps the Stormers should’ve made greater use of him in the last two weeks.
He was much more involved against the Chiefs, especially in those frantic last few minutes as the Stormers worked their way back into the game. Taute has been a reasonably solid, but unspectacular presence at fullback, so the Stormers’ attack should be much more dynamic with Aplon at No 15 and Tagicakibau on the field.
“If you look, to be honest, at what we have with Jaco out, Sailosi has to start as we don’t have another wing with us. I’m just keen to see Sailosi from the start. He came on twice and I am quite excited with what I see,” Coetzee said. “But he will be tested with the kicking game, but I’m comfortable, watching him and how he copes with high balls. Hopefully he can be the player with a bit of experience in supporting Gio at the back.”
Tagicakibau’s task has been made slightly easier as the Brumbies have lost star wing Henry Speight with a broken jaw. The Canberra Times reported yesterday that Wallaby wing Joe Tomane should return from a foot injury to replace Speight, but strong prop Scott Sio is out injured and lock Leon Power is likely to miss the Stormers clash as well.
There could be another welcome change at flyhalf for the Stormers, with Coetzee suggesting that Peter Grant may come in for Demetri Catrakilis.
The coach, when asked about Brumbies pivot Matt Toomua’s progress since he left Western Province at the end of 2009, spoke glowingly about his improved physicality and willingness to make big tackles, adding: “What’s impressive at the moment is his decision-making – when to kick and when to play. He’s not scared to have a go himself, so it is going to be an interesting battle at 10, should Peter be selected at 10, or even Demetri.”
But injuries are never far from the Stomers, and yesterday the curse struck once more as De Kock Steenkamp’s groin problem has been aggravated to such an extent that he left Sydney and flew home. Coetzee said that Steenkamp will see a specialist in South Africa, as “obviously the conservative treatment that he has undergone is definitely not the answer”.
He is the sixth lock within the greater Stormers squad currently out with injury, alongside Eben Etzebeth, Manuel Carizza, Rynhardt Elstadt, Gerbrandt Grobler and Jean Kleyn.
But at least Ruan Botha (knee) is fit enough to face the Brumbies, and Michael Rhodes is also over his shoulder problem. Coetzee said that he will try to sign a new lock from outside the squad, although the likes of Carizza and Elstadt should be ready to play soon after the tour. Juan de Jongh also joined the side at Coogee Beach yesterday.
“Jean de Villiers seems to be fine, he will be available. And guys coming back are Michael and Frans Malherbe,” he said.
“I’ve got Jurie van Vuuren here and he does cover lock. But we have a back-up in Duane. So, touch wood, no more of the locks will get injured and hopefully we can survive like that.”
Dunedin: Highlanders vs Hurricanes (8.35am)
Sydney: Waratahs vs Rebels (10.40am).
Auckland: Blues v Cheetahs (8.35am)
Canberra: Brumbies vs Stormers (10.40am)
Perth: Force vs Chiefs (1pm) Johannesburg: Lions vs Reds (5.05pm)
Pretoria: Bulls vs Sharks (7.10pm).
Bye: Crusaders. - Cape Times