Jamie Roberts is set to be thrown straight into the Stormers starting lineup for their opening Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Hurricanes. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers face a tough opener to their campaign against the Hurricanes at Newlands on Saturday afternoon. Although the visitors will be without star playmaker Beauden Barrett, who sealed a move to the Blues in the off-season and is currently on a break, they still have plenty of attacking threats in captain TJ Perenara, centre Ngani Laumape and wing Ben Lam.
Therefore it’s obvious that the Stormers cannot afford to ease into the season and will need to field their strongest starting lineup from the off.
Judging from their training sessions this week, it appears that that is exactly what coach John Dobson is going to do. During Wednesday’s training in Bellville, it became apparent that Dobson is preparing to give star recruit Roberts, who moved to the Cape to boost the team’s midfield stocks, his starting debut.
Roberts will likely line up at 12 alongside sevens convert Ruhan Nel in a centre combination that won’t lack for size or skill. The 33-year-old Wales international will also be expected to add a bit of calm to the halfback combination, which at this stage appears to be Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse.
‘We are going to play our strongest team,’ Dobson said. ‘All the Springboks are available and we have a British & Irish Lion in Jamie Roberts. We have to start well. There is no holding back this side. Maximum effort and maximum team, the best team that we can put out.
‘Jamie will play on Saturday. We are going full strength and will use all the international experience that we have got. Jamie will play a big role on Saturday.’
Dobson added that while the Stormers cannot afford to rotate too much before their overseas tour, he will still look to give youngsters like Rikus Pretorius a run when conditions suit them.
‘I don’t think we have the luxury at this franchise at the moment, with the draw that we have got, with tinkering too much until we have some real momentum. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we are going to need points in the bank by the time we go to Australia and New Zealand.
‘There are 50-50’s. Let’s say hypothetically, Jamie Roberts starts this week and maybe next week against the Bulls. Then we go to Ellis Park which is a really fast field and Rikus has done really well in Soweto. So that could be where Rikus starts. But we will look at that when it is 50-50.
‘Our most important thing is to accumulate points and accumulate them quickly. From a business perspective, we want to get people into Newlands.’
Those not considered for the match due to injury are lock JD Schickerling and loose forwards Cobus Wiese and Juarno Augustus. All three are expected to be back to face the Vodacom Bulls next weekend.
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