ELTON Jantjies will play his first match for the Stormers in two weeks’ time when they take on the Bulls in the Super 15.
Despite missing both Stormers’ warm-up matches, the Springbok remains first choice at flyhalf, coach Allister Coetzee said on Wednesday.
Jantjies missed last week’s match against the Cheetahs and will miss Saturday’s outing against Boland after the death of his father, Tony, 12 days ago. He will rejoin the Stormers on Sunday.
"I have no doubt that we have enough training sessions to work with Elton before the first game and that he will be ready to start on February 22," Coetzee said.
"Elton has been training while he’s up country to be with his family and he is desperate to get back on the field with the Stormers group.
"I will assess his mental state when he’s here next week but I’m confident he’ll be ready to play against the Bulls."
Kurt Coleman will start against Boland in the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, as he did against the Cheetahs last week. But he seems unlikely to be considered more than a back-up player, especially when Peter Grant returns from Japan.
"Kurt has done well and he gets another chance this weekend, but he will be the back-up," said Coetzee.
He named a strong line-up to face Boland, including recalls for injured hooker Deon Fourie, lock Andries Bekker and flanks Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt.
Jean de Villiers will start at outside centre and captain the team in the absence of the injured Schalk Burger, with Damian de Allende staying at inside centre.
The Cheetahs will face a full-strength Bulls side in a friendly match in Polokwane on Saturday.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made several changes to the side that took on the Lions last weekend. Only fullback Jurgen Visser remains in the starting XV while six players who started last week will be coming off the bench against the Cheetahs.
Also back in the Bulls’ fold is Wynand Olivier, who has returned from a year in Japan. The centre will start on the bench this weekend.
Pierre Spies, who is back to lead the Bulls, said the team’s younger players could learn from Olivier. "He brings a lot of composure and experience," Spies said yesterday.
He said halfbacks Morné Steyn and Francois Hougaard, who lost their places in the Bok starting team towards the end of last year, were eager to make a fresh start.
Meanwhile, grassroots rugby received a boost yesterday with the announcement of the Community Cup. The South African Rugby Union (Saru) hopes the club competition will help retain players and identify talent.
Saru CE Jurie Roux was cagey about the rate at which players are leaving the sport but admitted that a recent audit of rugby at club level had been a nasty surprise.
"The number of players at club rugby level is a lot fewer than anybody anticipated," he said. "We want to get a full report on the status of rugby around the country before we release those figures. We’ll do so some time next month, maybe."
He said the smaller provincial unions did not have money to contract a big pool of players and still relied on clubs. "We are now providing them with a nationwide platform to showcase talent that didn’t come through Craven Week.
"The provinces will have to take responsibility for talent identification but we will also use this competition as the basis for selecting the SA amateur team which we hope will play in the Africa Cup," Roux said.
Raiders chairman Derick Jardine, whose team are participants in the Community Cup, believes it can do for players what the Varsity Cup has done. "We’ve got players who played at Craven Week but did not make it further. They just got stuck in club rugby. This is an opportunity to showcase their talents again. If we didn’t get opportunities like this then the biggest question is why does club rugby still exist?" said Jardine.
With Liam del Carme