In the absence of experienced flyhalf Peter Grant a three-horse race have developed for the Stormers No.10 jersey ahead of the new Super Rugby season.
While Grant is still in Japan adding some Yen to his back pocket, much to the delight of his bank manager no doubt, youngsters Gary van Aswegen, Demetri Catrakilis and Burton Francis are all staking their claims on the flyhalf berth.
It's all to play for with no guarantee that Grant will be able to walk back into the starting line-up when he returns from Japan.
"I don't know whether Peter will come back in one piece or not, but Gary is the guy here competing with Burton and Demetri and he is certainly looking very sharp," Stormers coach Allister Coetzee told this website.
"Amongst the three of them they will get a fair opportunity and competition is really tight, which is healthy."
Former Bulls and Lions playmaker Francis made an impressive start to his campaign to re-launch his career in the Cape, with a competent performance against Boland that was steady without being spectacular.
Having slipped down the pecking order at the Lions, behind Butch James and Elton Jantjies, Francis will want to show the Johannesburg outfit what they've lost when he comes off the bench for the Stormers on Friday against his former team.
This week the front-runner to be the team's playmaker, Van Aswegen, will have the chance to cement his place in the side, having received the nod to start against the Lions at Newlands.
Injuries curtailed Van Aswegen's opportunities last season, where he picked up ligament damage to his knee at the start of the Super Rugby season, before again hobbling off in Province's opening Currie Cup match with another knee injury.
However, with those setbacks now behind him the talented 21-year-old has a great opportunity this weekend with Springbok centres Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh outside him.
"It's important to get the combinations going, so Gary needs to play with Juan and Jean," Coetzee confirmed.
"I think Burton is off to a good start and is really settling in nicely. Demetri had a bit of a tight hamstring, which is why he isn't in the mix this week, but he'll get his chance against the Cheetahs."
Catrakilis took his opportunity to make a mark during the Currie Cup when Van Aswegen picked up an injury, and has had a meteoric rise through the Western Province ranks since his impressive performances for UCT in last year's Varsity Cup.
The 22-year-old made such a big impact after his arrival on the scene last year that he was named Currie Cup Player of the Month for August.
Coetzee is pleased to have options after the flyhalf injury curse that plagued his side last season - where Peter Grant, Gary Van Aswegen, Lionel Cronje, Sam Lane and Kurt Coleman all went down injured, forcing the coach to send an SOS to the erratic Earl Rose as emergency cover and ask scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage to stand at No.10.
"Last year we had to go to flyhalves who had never even played Currie Cup rugby for Western Province, which was quite testing for us," Coetzee recalled. "It's crucial for these young guys to get some confidence in the position, because that's what you need to be successful in the competition - you must have quality depth."
All three youngsters are worthy contenders for the coveted No.10 jersey, and Coetzee will need to choose carefully.
"It's still not a cut and dry thing," he said.
"If you look at all three of them they all have strong passing games and have the kicking skills, which is great.
"It is a matter of the one who takes more charge and offers control and direction for the team - that is what I'm looking for.
"The guys need to be making the right decisions, how to get out of their half, how to turn the opposition and keep the ball moving ... is what if looking for in a flyhalf."
By Timmy Hancox
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