Salmaan Moerat excited to lead Stormers after injury in United Rugby Championship
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CAPE TOWN - BY now, if he hadn’t been injured, Salmaan Moerat would probably have become a Springbok already.
The 23-year-old No 4 lock was certainly in the national team plans, but then sustained a serious neck injury in April that has kept him off the field … until now.
Moerat was yesterday named as one of the Stormers’ co-captains, along with Ernst van Rhyn, for the fourmatch United Rugby Championship tour of Europe, where they will take on Benetton next Saturday in Treviso (2pm kickoff), followed by Irish giants Munster, Scottish outfit Edinburgh and Welsh club Dragons.
It has been a long road back for the former SA Under-20 and SA Schools skipper, as he also had to undergo surgery at one stage, but he feels ready to impose himself on the opposition once more.
“It’s been a long time coming – well over four months now. I’m really excited to get going. I’m just really grateful to be part of this touring squad, and it’s an exciting prospect,” Moerat said yesterday.
“It was a very scary time in my life, and I had some time to reflect on my career and what’s important … Definitely, it’s given me a whole new perspective of the game. It’s forced me to develop my game. I feel refreshed and really eager to get going.
“I will stick to what I know – I love the hard side of the game. But in saying that, I will do a few tweaks here and there, just to evolve my game, to become a better and smarter rugby player at the end of the day.
“I think the Currie Cup was a nice breeding ground for us, and this is a new competition that I believe is going to be really refreshing for our team, for myself. I’m just really excited to get going – just try to evolve my game and try to run the lineouts!”
Stormers coach John Dobson, in announcing a 33-man squad for the four-match tour that includes new signings Manie Libbok, Adre Smith and Brok Harris, as well as loan players Willie Engelbrecht, Junior Pokomela and Stefan Ungerer, said that having Moerat and Van Rhyn together as leaders would help both players to assist each other, especially on a four-week tour.
“Both (are) exceptional leaders who captained SA at Under-20 level. Ernst is red-lining in terms of his minutes (on the field), and Salmaan is coming back from a serious injury, so we have to manage that. Also, it’s a 46-man group, and we are trying to share the load there,” Dobson said.
On next week’s game against Benetton, who beat the Bulls in the Rainbow Cup final, and the overall United Rugby Championship, Moerat said: “We’ve got nice plans in place, and we’ve done our analysis. We’ll focus on ourselves and we know our strengths, and we will go there with a good attitude.
“It’s unfortunate that the Bulls lost in the final, but it opened our eyes as to what we can expect. We can’t go there and be arrogant, as this competition is really tough and challenging.
“It’s an entirely different challenge, and obviously it’s going to be a lot more set-piece driven, a lot more to do with our forwards. We will need to match-up each week, and it’s going to be really tough.”
STORMERS TOUR SQUAD
Forwards: Justin Basson, Dian Bleuler, Kwenzo Blose, Willie Engelbrecht, Neethling Fouche, Deon Fourie, Brok Harris, JJ Kotze, Leon Lyons, Salmaan Moerat (co-captain), Scarra Ntubeni, Junior Pokomela, Evan Roos, Sazi Sandi, Adre Smith, Marcel Theunissen, Ernst van Rhyn (co-captain), Andre-Hugo Venter, Nama Xaba
Backs: Juan de Jongh, Paul de Wet, Dan du Plessis, Warrick Gelant, Tristan Leyds, Manie Libbok, Godlen Masimla, Ruhan Nel, Sergeal Petersen, Rikus Pretorius, Tim Swiel, Stefan Ungerer, Edwill van der Merwe, Leolin Zas