Springbok utility back Gio Aplon believes the arrival of Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute will give the star-studded Stormers backline a newfound attacking zest in this year’s Super Rugby tournament.
The young, dynamic duo, who made their Springbok debuts last year, have linked up with the Stormers for the 2013 Super Rugby campaign on loan from the
Johannesburg-based Lions, who will make way for the Southern Kings this season.
The arrival of the Lions pair further bolsters a Springbok-laden Stormers back division that includes Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh and Peter Grant.
However, despite possessing arguably the best backline in Super Rugby on paper, collectively the big-name contingent failed to fire in recent seasons and last year scored just 28 tries, the least of any team in 2012.
While their resolute defence still led them to a second successive South African Conference title and home semifinal, their lack of synergic and creativity in the backline – especially considering the world-class talent at their disposal – have been a source of frustration for the team’s supporters in recent years.
Jantjies and Taute share an appetite for attacking rugby and are two of the most exciting youngsters in South Africa. Aplon said their arrival will not only give the Stormers an attacking edge but will also give the backline a potent mix of youth and experience.
Aplon expects the duo will play key roles for the Stormers but feels Toulon-bound Bryan Habana will be the heartbeat of the backline.
“The experience that Bryan [Habana] brings and how he played last year was fantastic, so I think we are going to need that this year,” said Aplon.
“But also with Jaco [Taute] adding to the back three and having Joe [Pietersen] and Gerhard [Van den Heever] who are also playing good rugby. I think we have a good balance of youth and experience along with the energy that Jaco is bringing to us so I am really looking forward to that.”
Aplon anticipates a strong final season from Habana before he joins the French club and feels Habana’s hunger to end his Stormers stint with a Super Rugby winner’s medal will bode well for the squad.
“I think Bryan is a team man and he will always give his best before he leaves so I think we can just feed off that and the experience that he brings to the team,” he said.
At 30 years of age, Aplon is second only to Springbok captain De Villiers as the oldest back in the squad. Far from feeling threatened by the new signings, Aplon believes their presence will bring out the best in the veteran backs.
“I think competition is good and competition is always healthy, I think that is what takes you to the next level of your game and keeps you on your toes,” said Aplon.
“I think the only niggle I have got now is the age that is getting on my back, but I think keeping up with the youngsters and the energy they bring in, that is the next challenge.
“Obviously I have been in the game for a while but it is good to challenge yourself to raise your standards and even go better, that is the next level of where you are at.”