Stormers centre Rikus Pretorius is excited for the potential face-off against Cheetahs and Springbok veteran Frans Steyn on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers will be looking to follow up this past weekend’s bonus-point win over Griquas in Kimberley when they welcome the Cheetahs to Newlands.
The fixture could pit Pretorius against a player who he looked up to during his schoolboy days in the Free State. Steyn, who is 12 years Pretorius’ elder, also attended Grey College, where he made his name as a prodigious talent.
‘For me to play against Frans will be a big challenge,’ Pretorius said during a media conference on Wednesday. ‘He was definitely someone who I looked up to. He was also at Grey College, so he has always been someone who I looked up to.’
It is still not clear whether Steyn will be involved in this weekend’s match after he withdrew from the team that lost to the Sharks in Durban with a groin injury. The Cheetahs are set to make a call over his availability on Thursday.
Stormers defence coach Norman Laker said that while Steyn adds a world-class presence to the Cheetahs backline, the Bloemfontein side would be a threat even if they aren’t able to field him this weekend.
‘Obviously, he is world class,’ Laker said. ‘He won two World Cups 12 years apart. You don’t do that in that time frame if you aren’t a world-class player. He brings a lot of experience and calm to the Cheetahs team.
But the Cheetahs have very good reserves. I personally think that they are not weakened. They definitely have a good replacement in Chris Smit, who played last weekend.’
Pretorius has enjoyed a solid run in the starting lineup since the restart, with Wales veteran Jamie Roberts, who was the favoured inside centre earlier this year, having returned home with the Dragons during the lockdown.
‘I wouldn’t say it was frustrating,’ Pretorius said about his lack of starting time before lockdown. ‘I actually really enjoyed learning from someone who has played for the British & Irish Lions and 94 Tests for Wales. For me, it was just a privilege learning from him. It motivated me at training, to train harder against him to get that No 12 jersey.’
Since the season restarted, Pretorius has formed a strong centre partnership with Dan du Plessis and the two combined effectively on attack and defence to help the Stormers claim a try-scoring bonus point and avoid conceding a try against Griquas.
‘Griquas are a really good sid especially in Kimberley,’ Laker said. ‘To not concede a try is something quite special because Griquas always find something to score points because they’re a good team. We’ve just addressed certain aspects of our defence and [made] one or two tweaks for individual players and I think it worked this past weekend.
‘We’ll have some confidence going into Newlands this weekend, playing against the Cheetahs in our first home game in a while, it wasn’t always easy being on the road the past three weeks but we’re looking forward to the challenge on Saturday.
‘The Cheetahs are always a difficult team to play against, you need to respect every single team in this competition, you can’t just take anything for granted because any team can beat any team on any given day, so it’s quite important that you stay focused for every single game.’
The Stormers could be without wing Edwill van der Merwe and lock David Meihuizen for Saturday’s clash after both took knocks against Griquas.
Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images