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Former Lions prop roars with Stormers

Bertus Smit, the former Lions Super 14 prop, has been a surprise participant at the Stormers training sessions in Bellville this week.

The 32-year-old strongman – who suffered a neck injury – has relocated to Cape Town and was invited by Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus to join in at his squad’s pre-season preparations, where three front-rowers head the list of the walking wounded.


JC Kritzinger is out for at least three weeks, Brok Harris will be sidelined for at least seven weeks and Brian Mujati has only just heeled from a minor injury.

“He is in Cape Town and he’s a wonderful player,” said Erasmus.

“He’s played lots of Super 14 rugby (for the Cats and the Lions) and we think it is an ideal back-up for us (the Stormers) if something bad happens now.”

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Something ‘bad’ did happen last week when Mujati and Kritzinger withdrew on the eve of the clash against English tourists Saracens and, as a result, the Stormers scrum was pulverised.

It did not help that the Saracens scrum was propped by former Stormers and Western Province stalwart Cobus Visagie, one of the finest scrummagers in world rugby today.

The Saracens coach Eddie Jones said after the Newlands clash that Visagie was so impressive that the 35-year-old Visagie could justify a two-year extension on his existing contract.

Smit was born and bred in Cape Town and cut his teeth in senior rugby, playing for the WP Vodacom Cup side in 2002.

The former President’s High schoolboy was soon snapped by the Griffons and thereafter his career travels took him to the Griffons, the Eagles and the Mighty Elephants before he landed a Super 14 contract with the Cats in 2006. Erasmus’ frontrow-troubles prompted the recent invitation to Smit.

“The nice thing is that Bertus (Smit) lives in Cape Town now, and although he has been out for some time, he says he is very keen to play again,” said Erasmus. “Bertus actually played ahead of Brian Mujati when they were both at the Lions.

“We have not offered him a contract yet, and he’s not in the squad to face Boland on Saturday.”

Another player who is knocking on Erasmus’ door for a contract is the big Tongan Sevens star Alipate Fatafehi, who is trying to prove his claims as a wing, although he is comfortable in several other backline positions.

He has been in Cape Town for three weeks and had a brief run as a substitute in last week’s friendly against Saracens. This week he’ll start out in the run-on XV against neighbours Boland in the annual pre-season derby in Wellington, on Saturday.

“We’ve decided to give Alipate an extended chance to show what he can offer us,” said Erasmus. “It wouldn’t be fair to try him in one game and now we want to see what he can do now that he is better accustomed to our systems.

“While he’s in the mix, we will give him as much time as we can to see if he’ll make it. There’s no hurry with a contract and we’ll make a call on him once he’s done with the Boland game.”

The Stormers’ first game of the 2009 Super 14 season will be against last year’s semifinalists, the Sharks, at Newlands, on Saturday, February 14.

Sapa –

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