No calm before the storm for Coetzee's side
THE Stormers left for a pre-season camp in Hermanus this week with a strong 36-man group and the assurance from coach Allister Coetzee that there would be no free rides for anyone.
Coetzee has scaled back the Stormers' pre-season warm-up games from four to two, and that means that first-choice players such as Jean de Villiers, Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth will be thrust into action immediately.
"The top Boks in our squad will be asked to play ASAP," Coetzee said. "They won't have a chance to ease themselves into action because we only have two warm-up games and then our Super rugby opener against the Bulls.
"Both our friendlies will include our top 30 players, which means they will be as close to match-ready as they can be against the Bulls on February 22."
The Stormers will play warm-up matches against Boland and the Cheetahs on February 2 and 9.
The Cape side face a potential hooker crisis after Scarra Ntubeni sustained a shoulder injury at training last week, possibly putting him out for months.
Springbok hooker Tiaan Liebenberg is still recovering from a back injury and is expected to be ready to play only by week three of the tournament. Ntubeni faces four weeks of observation before a decision is made about whether he needs surgery.
Ntubeni was one of the heroes of Western Province's successful Currie Cup campaign last season and was expected to become a regular in the Stormers set-up this year.
"Scarra was injured in a freak accident when he fell awkwardly and someone landed on top of him," Coetzee said. "With Tiaan also injured we only have one fit hooker in Deon Fourie."
The coach confirmed that flank Schalk Burger (knee) and lock Andries Bekker (back) would be fit for the opening match of the campaign against the Bulls and would take part in full training this week.