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Stormers 2012 preview

Star-studded squad looking to deliver

By Scott Mathie.   Last Updated: 21/02/12 1:40pm

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Gerhard van den Heever: Has made the move from the Bulls

Gerhard van den Heever: Has made the move from the Bulls

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Stormers coach Alistair Coetzee will have a lot more on his plate this season with the exit of Rassie Erasmus.

His departure raised questions about the politics behind the scenes at the Cape-based franchise, something which will now find its way into the lap of the Coetzee.

Erasmus was an astute tactician and only time will tell just how much of an effect his departure will have.

The Stormers have kept the majority of their squad, with seasoned Springbok campaigners Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers at the fore. They will welcome back the giant frame of Andries Bekker along with fellow Springbok, Duane Vermeulen, who both missed a large chunk of last year with serious injuries.

The star-studded pack is matched by their backs, whom although having lost stand out performer Jaque Fourie to Japan for the early season have an ample replacement in Springbok youngster Juan de Jongh. Bryan Habana, Gio Aplon, Joe Pietersen and newly-signed speedster Gerhard van den Heever from the Bulls give them excellent competition for the back three starting spots.

The Stormers have always promised much but delivered very little in the form of trophies. Having had a terrible record in the knockout stages, the question still remains whether they can handle the pressure of the big games.

The Newlands crowd will demand an attacking brand of rugby however much of the Stormers recent success has been built around their outstanding defence. Only the Waratahs conceded fewer points last season.

Whilst Peter Grant is away in Japan for the initial part of the season, it will be interesting if youngster Gary van Aswegen can stake a claim to the No.10 jersey this time around. They will also be hoping that Dewald Duvenhage remains fit as they lack depth in the scrum-half position.

The Stormers undoubtedly have the quality to go all the way in this competition but will need to overcome their fragile mental nature in the latter stages if they are to taste any success.

Prediction: 5th
Player to watch: Juan de Jongh - The Springbok centre will be afforded regular starting time this season and with his ability can stake a huge claim for a starting Springbok spot. De Jongh is an explosive runner and devastating defender who could terrorise opposing teams.

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