Grant in familiar territory for Stormers
Peter Grant will be in what has become familiar territory for him when it comes to playing his own first appearance of the season for the DHL Stormers – in other words playing off the bench.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, perhaps mindful of the fact that Grant has only trained this week with his team and still has to get used to what appear quite significant adjustments to the game-plan, has opted to give loan player Elton Jantjies a second chance in Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Sharks at Kings Park.
He has made only one unenforced change to the team that lost 25-17 to the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria last week, with Frans Malherbe earning a recall to the starting team for the Durban match in place of Pat Cilliers, who was disappointing in his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers.
The Springbok tighthead, who has played a lot of his best rugby as a replacement, will slot in on the bench alongside Grant.
The other change sees Joe Pietersen returning at fullback for Jaco Taute, who was also disappointing at Loftus but is ruled out because he sustained a groin injury in that match. None of the new players – Jantjies and Taute are on loan from the Lions while Cilliers has moved to the Cape permanently – impressed against the Bulls.
Pietersen’s recall to the No 15 jersey means that the Stormers will have top-quality goalkicking back-up for Jantjies in the starting team, something that probably made it easier for Coetzee to play Grant off the bench rather than rushing him straight into the starting team now that his Japanese commitments with the Kobe Steelers are over.
In the past two seasons Grant has come onto the field late in his first game for the franchise and on both occasions he has been a match-winner – last year against the Sharks and the year before that against the Lions.
Coetzee will be hoping he can do so again, although he will also be hoping that Jantjies can deliver more than he did in Pretoria.
The stuttering backline display at Loftus – frankly the Stormers backs were way too predictable and ran the ball from too deep – introduced doubts over whether Coetzee would stick with the same group, and Grant’s ability to attack the line from a flatter position might give him the edge over Jantjies in the long run.
There again, a look at the video of the Stormers/Bulls game has confirmed that it was invariably a forward, and not Jantjies, who was the first receiver at Loftus, so the deeper lining, which looks like a throwback to a bygone era, appears to be a strategy switch.
Time will tell whether a departure from the approach that saw them end in the top two on the log three years in a row is a wise move that will bring them success or a mistake that will send the Stormers down a precipitous path to a watery grave in Table Bay.
STORMERS TEAM: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen (vice-captain), Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Pat Cilliers, Don Armand, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Peter Grant, Gerhard van den Heever.