Young UCT talent Tim Whitehead looks set to make his first start for the Stormers, after Springbok centre Juan de Jongh was officially ruled out of Saturday’s all-South African Super 14 derby against the Cheetahs.
In so doing, Whitehead – who has been in action for Western Province’s Vodacom Cup team in recent weeks – will become UCT’s latest Super Rugby player; joining teammates Martin Muller and Tiger Bax who earned their Super 14 stripes last season.
The Port Elizabeth-born Whitehead had, until his WP call-up, been in superb form for the Ikeys in the 2010 Varsity Cup – after missing all of last year’s tournament with a serious groin injury.
Coach Allister Coetzee has named his Stormers starting line-up and confirmed Whitehead’s inclusion, Timmy came off the bench against Boland in a pre-season friendly at the Cape Town Stadium in early February – in lieu of De Jongh’s untimely elbow injury.
“Tim (Whitehead) has been with us for one or two sessions at 12 and he also may be an option to look at,” Coetzee told thestormers.com – the coach also mentioning the possibility of moving Peter Grant from flyhalf to inside centre.
“(And then) you’ve got other centres like Dylan Des Fountain and Frikkie Welsh – but they’re all outside centres, whereas Tim is a proper 12.”
Whitehead was first discovered by UCT head coach John Dobson, at Under-20 level in 2007, and then nurtured by current Stormers assistant coach Robbie Fleck, who – of course – was Dobson’s assistant coach in the 2008 and 2009 Varsity Cups.
It was Fleck, however, who moved Whitehead from outside centre to inside centre – believing in his playmaking abilities from closer in; although Whitehead still remains comfortable at either No.12 or 13.
Twenty-one-year-old Whitehead represented the WP Under-21 team in 2008 and 2009, whilst he also played for the SA Universities side last year – despite not featuring in the Varsity Cup.
Now, however, he is in line for his biggest challenge yet; along with the opportunity of partnering a World Cup-winning centre, in Jaque Fourie, in the Stormers midfield.