New-look Stormers want to avoid bashing by Bulls

Little-known wing Johnny Kotze will be a focal point of attention when the Stormers travel to Loftus Versfeld to take on the Bulls in a Super Rugby opener tomorrow.

Kotze is one of the stars of the Western Province junior ranks, but finds himself set to face a packed Loftus in an unfamiliar position because of injury to Kobus van Wyk.

Kotze, 22, is one of six Stormers debutants in the squad to face a Bulls team that contains 13 Springboks. On paper it should not even be a contest, but Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is upbeat and excited about what Kotze and the rest could bring.

“I get the impression that some people think we’re going to bend over and get ‘bliksemmed’ up there,” Coetzee said.

“We have a very competitive team with a variety of skill levels – there is physicality, subtleness, good runners and good defenders. We are very comfortable with the team.

“Johnny Kotze has been a standout junior player in the system and he brings characteristics that we need.

“He is physical and brave and he has good skills. He has played a lot at centre and he will do well on the wing. He’s strong defensively and a good finisher.”

The Bulls have a superb-looking pack featuring three players – hooker Adriaan Strauss, prop Trevor Nyakane and flank Lappies Labuschagne – who represented the Cheetahs last year.

They also have vast experience in Pierre Spies on the bench and the returning presence of Bok looseforward Arno Botha at No 8.

Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard will play wing, with Piet van Zyl starting at scrumhalf, where he will partner Handré Pollard at halfback.

-Craig Ray

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