Jean to be Stormers' guiding light

Wed, 19 Feb 2014 13:36
We want to make it as easy as possible for the debutants

Although he has confidence in the young Stormers backline, captain Jean de Villiers knows that he will have to provide vital guidance against the Lions this weekend.

De Villiers and fullback Gio Aplon are the only two players over 25 in a Stormers backline which includes two Super Rugby debutants in Michael van der Spuy and Kobus van Wyk, so the two Springboks will need all of their experience at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Stormers skipper said that the key will be to make the new players feel comfortable and allow them to show why they got picked in what he believes is the best available team with Jaco Taute, Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe all sidelined with injuries.

"All the guys selected have done well in the pre-season and warm-up games, so this is our best team available to play this weekend. Each guy will go in with a lot of confidence knowing that they were selected because they are the best in that position.

"From a senior point of view we want to make it as easy as possible for the debutants to come in and put in a good performance. I know how tough it was when I made my debut and the older guys in the team helped me so that is our responsibility," he explained.

Although Van der Spuy and Van Wyk will have to adjust quickly to the demands of Super Rugby against a Lions side coming off a win against the Cheetahs, De Villiers is confident that they will both suit the Stormers' gameplan.

"The big thing for them is to go show and do what they have been doing, because that is why they were selected. It won't be easy, it will be tough. It is tough going to Joburg to play at Ellis Park and they [Lions] are obviously confident after their win this weekend [against the Cheetahs].

"The players that have been chosen have been selected because they can do what is expected of them. Firstly to defend well, because that is what this team does well. Secondly to fall in line with what we want to improve on this year which includes the attack and the breakdown.

"I am really looking forward to seeing what they can do and how we as a backline function," he said.

De Villiers has been impressed with what he has seen from his new midfield partner Van der Spuy who he says has a solid all-round game.

"I think Michael did really well last year in the Currie Cup and showed that he can play at that level, stand his ground and he did a really good job.

"He is also a very talented guy, a good ball-player, he kicks well, he is not scared, he makes his tackles and he is the sort of player that doesn't make a lot of mistakes so he is very solid and I am pretty confident that he will do a good job," he said.

Van Wyk is a centre who has been given his senior chance at wing, which De Villiers said reminds him of how he started out ten years ago.

"There was a young player in 2004 who started playing wing for the Springboks who walked pretty much the same path. Kobus has the potential to play there, he has got enough pace and skills, he is big and it is a great opportunity for him," he said.

The experienced centre said that another positive for his side is that Taute, De Jongh and Kolbe will all be returning in the coming weeks, which should be a considerable boost.

"It is the best available team for us, the great thing is that there are still guys like Juan de Jongh, Cheslin and Jaco Taute who will come back for us. Those are two Springboks and a Sevens Springbok so there is depth and this weekend these are the guys selected to do the job," he said.

Although backline injuries have severely depleted the Stormers' options for their season-opener, the new players will at least have the benefit of playing alongside the seasoned Springbok skipper against a Lions side that did not manage to score a try against the Cheetahs last week.

That does not mean that it will be easy at Ellis Park on Saturday, but it does present a great opportunity for them to make an impression with some of the big names watching from the stands.

By Michael de Vries

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