Blitzbok star Ruhan Nel ’can slot in anywhere’ for the Stormers, Newsline

CAPE TOWN – Stormers defence coach Norman Laker has confidence in their reserve stocks ahead of their Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Cheetahs on Saturday after wing Edwill van der Merwe and lock David Meihuizen sustained injuries at the weekend.

Van der Merwe, a former Varsity Cup star, had to leave the field after going down with injury (hamstring) in the first minute of their 39-6 win against Griquas in Kimberley at the weekend, with head coach John Dobson later saying that he could spend a while on the sidelines. Meihuizen took a knock to the chest.

Van der Merwe and Angelo Davids were the men out wide for the Stormers’ fourth Super Rugby outing, and Laker explained that Ruhan Nel – who came on for Van der Merwe at the weekend – can slot in almost anywhere in the backline given his Sevens background, while they are well covered in the second row as well.

“We’re still waiting to hear about David (Meihuizen) and Edwill’s injuries, but we have good replacements in Chris van Zyl and Salmaan Moerat, so I think we are covered at lock, and the same goes for wing. Ruhan is a world-class Sevens player, so he can slot in anywhere, then we have Leolin Zas who’s available as well,” Laker said.

“Edwill did his hamstring and David took a knock to the chest. We’re not sure about Jaco (Coetzee) yet.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, one of the big features in the Cheetahs squad is experienced campaigner Frans Steyn.

The double World Cup-winner was a late withdrawal (due to a groin injury) from the side that went down to the Sharks this past weekend.

The Free State side are expected to make a call on his availability later this week but, whether he features at Newlands or not, it won’t necessarily change the Cheetahs’ chances of success too much, Laker reckoned.

“He’s a world- class player … you don’t win two World Cups if you’re not a good player,” he said. “He brings a lot of experience to their team and he brings a lot of calm, but I wouldn’t say the Cheetahs are a much weaker team without him. They have good guys who can fill that position, like Chris Smit, he’s also a very good player.”

The Stormers’ defence was a much-improved effort in their victory over Griquas after suffering a 39-6 defeat to the Bulls the previous week.

When asked about how they prepared for the Kimberley game and about the changes they made in terms of their defence, Laker said: “We just addressed certain aspects of our defence and made one or two tweaks and I think it worked this past weekend.

“The Cheetahs are always a tough team to play, you need to respect every single team in this competition and you can’t take anything for granted because any team can beat you on any given day, so it’s important that you stay focused.

“The Cheetahs like to throw the ball around and they’re quite a dangerous team with ball in hand, but we also back our defensive structures, so we’re looking forward to the game.”