Van der Merwe: ‘Why I picked Naas’



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The Stormers will not be taking the conservative route when they get their Super 14 campaign underway, against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe dismissed the notion that he is opting for a conservative “safety first” approach in naming Naas Olivier at fly-half for the Super 14 Round One encounter with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Following all the pre-season hype surrounding the signing of Brent Russel by the Stormers as a specialist No.10, there was a certain amount of expectation that the Springboks’ Pocket Rocket (Russell) would have started in the opening rounds.

However, Van der Merwe named a very predictable and familiar starting XV to face the Cheetahs in this all-South African derby.

The only new face in the starting XV is former Cats and Lions star Conrad Jantjes, playing on the wing, with Russell – the other big off-season signing – named on the replacement bench.

Certain sections of the media had suggested that if Olivier starts in the No.10 jersey it would be because the Stormers were looking to play a more conservative game – as opposed to their all-action, counter-attacking style of rugby.

“I don’t agree with the notion that we’ve gone for the conservative option,” Van der Merwe said on Thursday, when he announced the team to face the Cheetahs.

“I don’t think Naas [Olivier] was ever a conservative fly-half,” he added.

The Stormers coach made it clear that Russell has bought into the approach of Olivier starting in the early games and that he (Russell) would be getting his opportunities at a later stage.

“Brent realises he hasn’t played at No.10 in quite a while and it will take a while for him to get back into it.

“It is a very different role play at No.10, from the wing. You’ve got a lot less time to make decisions, along with the extra responsibility of kicking and controlling the game.

“I think it is our job as coaches to give him [Russell] opportunities to improve there. I’m certainly very happy with his progress.

“However, I think there are two areas that set them apart.

“Naas’ goal-kicking, at this stage, it’s better than Brent’s and Brent realises that.

“Naas is also the guys that played throughout the Currie Cup [in 2006] and he deserves the spot at the moment.”

There was certainly very little reason for any debate surrounding the other selections.

It is a very impressive looking back three of Gio Aplon, Breyton Paulse and Jantjes. The rest of the backs are also as expected – with the key players being Springbok centre Jean De Villiers at No.12 and Bok scrum-half Bolla Conradie partnering Olivier at halfback.

The loose forward combination of Joe van Niekerk (at No.8), Schalk Burger and Luke Watson (both fulfilling the role of openside flankers or fetchers) also picked itself.

Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Breyton Paulse, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Jean De Villiers, 11 Conrad Jantjes, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Bolla Conradie, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Luke Watson (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Selborne Boome, 3 Eddie Andrews, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 JP Joubert, 21 Brent Russell, 22 De Wet Barry

Date: Saturday, 3 February
Venue: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Touch judges: Linston Manuels (South Africa), Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

By Jan de Koning

365 Digital

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