What are the Stormers' options?

Thu, 24 Jan 2013 13:33
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World Cup winner John Smit is not on the Stormers' wish-list, but what are their options as they look for a short-term replacement at hooker?

World Cup winner John Smit is not on the Stormers' wish-list, but what are their options as they look for a short-term replacement at hooker?

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee was pretty specific when asked this week about the qualities of the three hookers he is negotiating with.

"I am looking for an experienced hooker," Coetzee said, adding that all three are South African-based.

It is pretty obvious that the Stormers mentor is looking for a seasoned hooker of Super Rugby standard.

It has been suggested that Lions hooker Martin Bezuidenhout is the front runner to fill the vacancy, and he is definitely on Coetzee's shortlist.

Golden Lions Rugby Union President Kevin de Klerk confirmed that Bezuidenhout could be 'loaned' to the Stormers for a few months, but added that nothing is confirmed yet.

The only issue with Bezuidenhout is that at 23, with just 20-odd Super Rugby and 40 Currie Cup games to his credit, he may not be as 'seasoned' as Coetzee would want - given that he is effectively looking for a player with real experience.

Griquas captain Ryno Barnes, who is in the Cheetahs' wider squad, is another player 'shortlisted' in the media. At 31 and with more than 100 Currie Cup games he has 'experience', but he has limited Super Rugby exposure - having featured in just 20-odd Super Rugby encounters.

The player that best suits Coetzee's requirements is veteran Bulls No.2 Willie Wepener. At age 31, with over 100 first class matches (between the Golden Lions, Griquas, Clermont and Blue Bulls) and more than 50 Super Rugby matches he is certainly 'experienced' enough for the Stormers.

Bezuidenhout is the Lions' first-choice hooker, Barnes is still trying to secure his place in the Cheetahs' final Super Rugby squad, while Wepener has dropped well down the pecking order at the Bulls and is almost certainly available at the drop of a hat.

Here is a look at the top, South African-based hookers in the local franchises:

Bulls: Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Callie Visagie (on loan from the Lions) and Willie Wepener

Cheetahs: Ryno Barnes, Hercu Liebenberg, Adriaan Strauss, Torsten van Jaarsveld (on loan from the Pumas)

Kings: Hannes Franklin (injured - likely to miss entire season), Virgile Lacombe (signed from Toulouse),  Bandise Maku (signed from Lions), Edgar Marutlulle (on loan from the Leopards)

Sharks:  Craig Burden, Kyle Cooper, Monde Hadebe, Bismarck du Plessis (injured - return date uncertain, maybe April)

Stormers: Deon Fourie, Tiaan Liebenberg (injured - could miss first month), Siyabonga Ntubeni (injured - back by mid-April or the end of April)

Lions: Martin Bezuidenhout, Robbie Coetzee, Francois du Toit

By Jan de Koning

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