Stormers gearing up for 'Loftus brutes'
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: The Stormers are looking to put a few injuries concerns behind them, as they build-up towards a ‘brutal’ season opener.
The Cape Town-based franchise travel to Pretoria on Saturday to face the Bulls team that will include two former Stormers stalwarts – Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits.
Stormers forwards coach Russell Winter admitted the two Springboks – Vermeulen and Brits – will play a vital role when the arch-rivals meet in the opening round of the season.
The Stormers are sweating over the fitness of Bok prop Steven Kitshoff, who suffered a hamstring injury in their final pre-season outing – a 13-try, 87-5 victory over Boland in Wellington last Friday.
“We are hoping he will pull through,” Winter told a media briefing, adding: “[Last] Friday wasn’t a good thing for him.
“Hopefully we get good news [on Tuesday].”
However, he is adamant they have sufficient cover.
“I believe Alistair [Vermaak] was knocking on the door of a Springbok call-up last year, while we have Corné Fourie [recruited from the Lions] as well.
“Alistair Vermaak was one of our standout players in the Currie Cup last year. He is a great scrummager.
“I really hope this year is his year and he is definitely capable of playing for the Springboks.”
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The Stormers’ assistant coach said Saturday’s season-opener will as brutal as any other north-south derby.
“When you play the Bulls at Loftus, they definitely play at the Test level intensity,” Winter said.
“Our pack will have to match it [their intensity] if we want to win.”
He said Vermeulen and Brits will be key players at Loftus Versfeld.
“Everybody knows they are great players,” Winter said, adding: “They are really experienced [and] they know how to play these big games.
“If you talk of the spine of the side – No.2, No.8 No.9, No.10 and No.15 are vital.
“Those two players [No.8 Vermeulen and No.2 Brits] are key.
“Those will be key match-ups at the weekend.
“Our guys are looking forward to it.”
Winter said he as “excited” about the quality of the talent in the Stormers squad.
“[No.8 Sikhumbuzo] Notshe has been trying very hard and training well.
“Trokkie [Juarno Augustus] is coming through and he is going to get a chance and will show everybody what a good player he is.”
The other key player in the Bulls pack is Springbok lock Lodewyk de Jager.
“Lodewyk [de Jager] is a great player,” Winter said, adding: “He showed [that] in the SuperSunday [pre-season] game, when he put out line-out under a lot of pressure.
“He is a world-class No.5. He manipulates line-outs very well.”