Rassie staying true to form with surprise selections

Rassie Erasmus has lived up to his reputation as a master of guile when he named the untried 19-year-old Nick Koster in the Stormers’ starting line-up to play against the highly fancied Sharks in Saturday’s Super 14 derby at Newlands.

Gone are the days when Erasmus directed his team’s playing patterns with disco lights and a few coloured paddles from a grandstand roof.

Instead, ever the unconventional thinker that he is, Erasmus last season sent teams onto the field which showed changes, or even positional changes from the ones officially named a few days earlier.

Now Erasmus wants to retread one of South Africa’s most promising loose forward prospects as a left wing.

Koster, who was called up by former Springbok coach Jake White to play for the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham last December, has had limited time out wide in the Stormers’ pre-season friendlies but Erasmus has opted to fast track him into Super 14 arena as a left wing.”We have enough confidence in Nick (Koster) for him to start,” said Erasmus.

“He’ll take time to adapt but if he doesn’t have a go now, then when? “May be he won’t get everything right in his first game but the coaches will take responsibility for that.”

“I think he’s got everything to make it at wing and we have a bit of an injury problem with Sireli. He (Koster) should now jump in and swim but I believe he can do it.”

Koster’s surprise graduation into run-on XV comes about as a result of Fijian-born winger Sireli Naqelevuki nursing a rib cage injury which he picked up in a recent warm-up match against Boland.

But Erasmus said he was happy that Naqelevuki has regained fitness and the Fijian “would be the first to come into the picture” if there were last-minute injuries in the backline.

“I could have waited until Friday to see if Sireli was fully fit but then I would have been in trouble with the media,” Erasmus said.

Perhaps now that Erasmus has satisfied the large Cape media contingent by announcing his team at the stipulated time he may have time to ponder just what the best combination will be to send out on Saturday.

Already Erasmus has bracketed Conrad Jantjes and Percy Montgomery for the fullback berth, while Montgomery’s name has also been bracketed with Naqelevuki’s on the list of substitutes.

Jantjes has not played in the warm-up games because he was suffering with a groin injury and he could be short on match fitness. As such, he would probably serve the team better coming off the bench on Saturday.

The other flash point at Wednesday’s team announcement was the naming of new recruit Duane Vermeulen at No 8 ahead of Luke Watson who was fielded in that position in both warm-up games.

Vermeulen has arrived at Newlands with a huge reputation after his stellar performances for the Cheetahs last season.

“This loose trio has been selected for tactical reasons,” said Erasmus. “The loose trio will rotate next weekend. “It is a long competition and certain players (like the Springboks) have to be rested.

“I am happy we have the right combination for this game. If the game opens up in the second half it will suit the players on the bench.”

And then there is the Stormers’ front row which was Eddie Jones’ object of scorn after his Saracens powerhouse pack out scrummed the Capetonians at Newlands a fortnight ago.

But Erasmus is confident that with Springbok Brian Mujati back in the fray his tight five will hold their own against the Sharks’ all-Springbok unit.

Former Springbok prop Robbie Kempson is the latest to raise the matter of the Stormers’ scrum vulnerability.

His comments were reported in a Cape Town daily but Erasmus countered that he has no concerns about scrum time against the Sharks, who nowadays are primed in that department by Balie Swart, a 1995 World Cup winner.

Sapa – Super14.com

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