Habana joins Pietersen in move to the centre
Less than a week after Bok wing JP Pietersen was unveiled as a contender for centre at the Sharks, the Stormers have picked Bryan Habana in the same position for their pre-season match against the Southern Kings.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee confirmed that 74-test veteran Habana, who has played 73 tests as wing, would cover centre during the Super 15 campaign this season.
The coach denied that the move was a negative step at this stage of Habana's career, and dismissed any suggestion that a potential switch to outside centre was to compensate for a perceived lack of pace.
"In fact Bryan is the quickest player in the squad," Coetzee said.
"He is no stranger to the outside centre berth, since he started out his senior rugby career (with the Golden Lions) in that position.
"He has been efficient in terms of how he understands the team's systems on attack and defence. I'm comfortable with him there.
"One thing Bryan still has is an eye for the gap, which makes him such an outstanding try-scorer. He runs superb lines and will feed off Jean de Villiers's service because he won't have to work so hard to look for the ball; it will come to him.
"It will be great to see him play alongside an experienced centre like Jean, and Bryan is also very excited by the prospect of playing centre."
De Villiers, who will start the season as the first-choice inside centre, was excited at the chance to combine with his experienced teammate.
"He has all the attributes to become a top outside centre," De Villiers said.
"What makes Jaque Fourie such a great centre is that he has the ability to make excellent decisions on defence and organise the defensive.
"Bryan has those same abilities. Another factor is that his pace will be a big factor in that channel.
"It's a trend to move wings to centre. Tana Umaga did it successfully and Aurelien Rougerie has made a positive switch for France, so I don't see why Bryan can't be successful in that role.
"He will do great, but don't expect miracles in his first game."
As expected, Coetzee named Andries Bekker at lock and Duane Vermeulen at No8. Both players have been out of action for six months and will make welcome returns. Coetzee said he wouldn't expect either player to play for more than 30 minutes. If they come through unscathed, it will be enough to convince him they're ready for selection against the Hurricanes on February 25.