Peter Grant may be a veteran of more than 70 Super Rugby matches, but he may well find himself a couple of places down the line in the Stormers' flyhalf queue when he returns from Japan in a month or so.
Playing for Kobe Steel, Grant will miss the start of the Super Rugby season - which has left the door open for youngsters like Burton Francis and Gary van Aswegen to steal a march on the five-Test Springbok.
Van Aswegen will start in the No.10 jersey against the Eastern Province Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, with Francis coming off the bench. Van Aswegen and Francis also played in the win over the Lions a fortnight ago, while Demetri Catrakilis and Kurt Coleman featured in the loss to the Cheetahs last week.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee admitted that the current duo - Van Aswegen and Francis - have the inside lane to the No.10 jersey for the start of the season.
Although Francis struggled to secure a regular starting place at the Bulls and Lions - where he played just 21 games between 2008 and 2011 - Coetzee feels he has made huge strides since his arrival at the Stormers.
"At this point he has come into his own," Coetzee said, when asked about Francois.
"He came to the Stormers and he grabbed his opportunity," the coach added.
Coetzee said it is possible that Van Aswegen could keep Grant out of the starting team if he continues with the fine pre-season form he has displayed.
"There are no certainties [in the team] and they understand that," the Stormers mentor said, when asked if Grant would walk straight back into the starting XV once he arrives back from Japan.
"They have to play well," he added.
He pointed to the find of 2011, Dimitri Catrikilis, as an example of how tough it could be to get a starting spot in the Super Rugby team.
Catrikilis, the Man of the Match in the Varsity Cup Final last year and also Currie Cup Player of the Month for August, has missed the Super Rugby cut.
"He [Catrikilis] had a great Currie Cup season, but it was only the Currie Cup in a World Cup year," Coetzee said, adding: "We would like to reward the player for performing well, but it doesn't mean he is out for the whole season.
"There will be opportunities for those players. Last year we used 38 players.
"Each one of them bring different dynamics, expertise and skills to the team and we have to start somewhere.
"At this point in time, with Gary [van Aswegen] here and Bash [Grant] not here ... Bash will need time to settle in -. But it is good to have healthy competition."
Jean de Villiers, who will captain the Stormers in PE, also backed the young flyhalves to lift their games to the required standards once the Super Rugby season gets underway.
"I think Gary [van Aswegen] has done well with the opportunities that he has had," De Villiers said.
"We are preparing as if Bash [Peter Grant] won't be playing in the first match, certainly, and maybe even the one after that.
"We are definitely in a better position [at flyhalf] than we were last year ... the young guys have really stepped up.
"It is a great position to be in and I really enjoy what each flyhalf gives.
"I am looking forward to playing with Gary [van Aswegen] again - there is no doubt he has unbelievable credentials."
By Jan de Koning
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