Ikey Bax on standby for Stormers

Tiger Bax vs TUT
Tiger Bax soon to be a Stormer? (Photo ©Gallo)
Exciting FNB UCT back Tiger Bax has been placed on standby for the Stormers ahead of their Super 14 clash against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday (kick-off 5pm).

Twenty-year-old Bax will come into the selection equation if Springbok star Schalk Burger fails a late fitness test on his troublesome calf muscle.

If Burger is not fit, Francois Louw will wear the No.6 jersey against the table-topping Bulls, with Bax coming onto the bench – making him the first player in 2009 to graduate directly from the Varsity Cup competition into a full Super 14 player.

Erasmus has gone for this three/four split – in terms of forwards versus backs – because Nick Koster is starting on the wing in place of Sireli Naqelevuki. Koster, of course, has played all his junior representative rugby at No.8 and will provide loose forward cover for the Stormers, along with hooker Schalk Brits.

“Tiger’s been training with us for a while now and I’m sure that if given the chance he won’t let us down,” said Erasmus on Wednesday.

“Tiger will come in and cover for Percy Montgomery if Schalk sits out,” explained the Stormers coach, “as we are confident we have enough loose forward cover in Schalk Brits and Nick Koster.”

Bax has been a standout performer for the Ikey Tigers in FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International action this year; starting four matches – one at fullback and three at outside centre.

He has trained at fullback with the Stormers this season – even playing a pre-season game against UCT at No.15 – but many believe his best position could be at flyhalf.

Former Springbok centre Robbie Fleck – Tiger’s backline coach at UCT – had this to say about Bax in a recent rugby365.com column: “In many ways Tiger reminds me of Stephen Larkham, only a more energetic version.

“Tiger can kick with boot feet, pass to both sides with ease, he has vision and he loves taking the ball up to the advantage line.

“He is the next big thing in South African backline play, but people must remember that he is still very young and he needs to be given time to settle into one position and once he matures you will see what I am talking about!”

If Bax gets a run for the Stormers this weekend, he will follow in the footsteps of Kyle Brown (SA Sevens), JJ Gagiano (USA Eagles) and Mat Turner (England Sevens) – all of whom graduated from John Dobson’s Varsity Cup side of 2008 and moved onto bigger and better things without even playing Vodacom Cup or Currie Cup rugby first.

The Stormers team: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Nick Köster, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 AJ Venter, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Dewaldt Duvenhage, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Sireli Naqelevuki.

Standby: Tiger Bax.