Stormers not flu-bitten



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The Stormers have declared a clean bill of health for their Super 14 squad to play the Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday.

There has been much anxiety in the high-flying Stormers camp after their skipper Jean de Villiers was confined to bed this week because of influenza.

Scrumhalf Bolla Conradie was also battling the flu virus.

To add to the distress, lock Ross Skeate was suffering with a stomach bug and unable to participate fully in training this week.

But late on Friday afternoon Stormers media liaison officer Frikkie Erasmus was beaming after the usual pre-matchday captain’s run which is always closed to the public and the media.

“The matchday squad, as it was announced on Wednesday, will take the field,” Erasmus said. “The players were declared fit at the captain’s run. We’re just hoping it goes well on Saturday.”

De Villiers has blossomed as the Stormers’ captain this season and it has run parallel to his glowing midfield performances which has now established him as the finest centre in South Africa.

But having been in bed for a week with ill-health, one can hardly expect that the Stormers stalwart will be at his best, and his personal circumstances could be aggravated by the pending wintry weather on Saturday.

The Stormers’ regular flyhalf Peter Grant who has been named as a reserve for the match was running at inside centre at several training sessions this week, so it looks like the side will have adequate cover if De Villiers’ cries off.

And should that happen, the captain’s armband is likely to be handed to the inspirational Schalk Burger, who usually sets the tone with his exhilarating displays.

The flu affliction also comes at a bad time for Conradie who is desperate to reassert himself at the Stormers where he has been eclipsed by Lions-import Ricky Januarie, who has been a revelation at the base of the scrum this season.

However, since the captain’s run was conducted in secrecy no one can confirm if there were in fact problems with the players who were battling with fitness.

Of course, there is also no point in Stormers camp disclosing anything else to the contrary at this late stage because such information would alert the Highlanders, and their pre-match morale could enjoy a lift.

It was raining in Cape Town late on Friday, and for the second successive week the Stormers will be playing in conditions in stark contrast to conditions leading up to match day.

Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus will be called on to work his substitutions wisely to ensure that his squad retain peak match fitness, especially with the demanding Super 14 fixtures ahead.

Erasmus will be aware that his New Zealand opponents will welcome the expected wet weather conditions.

He would also have noted that lately it has been a feature that less fancied Super 14 sides tend to punch above their weight when there is nothing but pride to play for in the second half of the competition.

Erasmus pointed out that the anticipated capacity crowd will provide his side with a massive boost and added that the players “have goosebumps” every time they run at Newlands.

The Stormers missed out on another boost when their fellow South African Super 14 campaingers, the Lions, suffered defeat at the hands of the Brumbies, in Australia, earlier on Friday.

Just when it seemed that the Stormers old boy Earl Rose had done enough with two second-half tries to secure a shock victory for Lions, the Brumbies came storming back to clinch 28-21victory at the death.

The Brumbies are in heavy competition with the Stormers for a play-off berth at the business end of the Super 14 competition.

Sapa –

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