Liebenberg leads changed Stormers
Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:20
We're giving everyone an opportunity
Veteran hooker Tiaan Liebenberg will lead a much-changed Stormers into battle in their final Super Rugby pre-season outing.
Coach Allister Coetzee decided to mix things up in a bid to give his entire group of players a run before the start of the season proper.
Youngsters EW Viljoen and Justin Phillips (from the WP Rugby Institute) will get their first taste of senior action for the union this weekend, whilst recent WP Under-21 stars Kyle Lombard, Devon Williams, Godlen Masimla, Rayn Smid, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Jean Kleyn and Oliver Kebble will start for the first time in 2014.
Forwards Stephan Coetzee, Carel du Preez and Eital Bredenkamp - like Lombard, Smid, Notshe, Kleyn and Kebble also members of the cup-winning WP U21 team from last year - will warm the bench in Wellington.
Unfortunately, centre Pat Howard suffered a slight hamstring injury at training on Monday, which will keep him out of action for two weeks.
Utility forward Rynhardt Elstadt, meanwhile, will not be out of action for too long after picking up a rib injury against the Kings this past weekend (in his team's 40-7 win in PE).
Elstadt should be ready for his team's first Super Rugby game of the season - against the Lions on Saturday, February 22.
Skipper Jean de Villiers, who took a knock to his ear against the Bulls two weeks ago (when the Stormers won 26-19), will definitely be ready to travel to Johannesburg next week.
"As stated before, my intention was always to ensure a decent amount of game time ahead of the start of the Super Rugby season - you can see with our selections this week that we're giving everyone an opportunity," Coetzee said.
"Players like Tiaan, Gary and Pat will bring experience to the party, whilst it's exciting to see young forwards like Oli and Notshe get starts this weekend and the introduction of Institute players like EW Viljoen and Justin Phillips is an exciting opportunity for us as coaches and the players alike.
"This is a good team and an exciting one and I'm expecting these players to put their hands up in this game."
The Stormers would have played three warm-up matches by the time their Super Rugby season officially starts next weekend and Coetzee added: "I'm very satisfied with where we are as a team at this stage of the season and when compared to last year.
"I'm also very happy with the game time that players like Schalk Burger, for instance, have had over the past fortnight. Schalk had 80 minutes at altitude against the Bulls and 40 minutes this past weekend. He's fit and feeling good - I think our squad has prepared well on the whole and players have got the right amount of game time.
"Yes, Jean de Villiers had 60 minutes only [against the Bulls], but he's a senior player… as is Duane Vermeulen. It's not Duane or Jean's first season of Super Rugby… so I'm not worried about them at all."
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 EW Viljoen, 13 Kyle Lombard, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Rayn Smid, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg (captain), 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements - from: Alistair Vermaak, Stephan Coetzee, Juan Harris, Mthetheleli Fuzani, Carel du Preez, Eital Bredenkamp, Justin Phillips, Kurt Coleman, JP Lewis, Scott van Breda.
Date: Saturday, February 15
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 16.30 (14.30 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
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