Aplon won’t start against Crusaders
Springbok Gio Aplon will be limited to at best a bench role in the Stormers’ crunch Vodacom Super Rugby showdown with the Crusaders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday.
Aplon sustained a hip pointer injury in the Cape team’s 21-6 win over the Highlanders in the opening tour match last weekend and coach Allister Coetzee has given him time to prove his fitness so he can take his place in the match 22. However as Aplon won’t be training with the team this week, he has selected Gerhard van den Heever as his right wing for the Crusaders match.
Aplon has been bracketed with centre JP du Plessis on the bench, with a call set to be made on his readiness to be among the reserves on Friday. Coetzee has said before that he won’t select a player into the 22 if he is not 100% fit, so he will have to prove his fitness.
The selection of the fomer Bulls flyer Van den Heever to the back three is one of only two changes to the team that started in Dunedin. The only volitional change from the management is a rotational selection at tighthead prop, where Brok Harris’s experience will see him start the game after Frans Malherbe wore the No 3 jersey last week.
There is another change on the bench, with Nick Koster being forced to cry off with the injury that forced him off against the Highlanders. His place is taken by Nizaam Carr, who has been impressive when he has got onto the field for the Stormers this season.
The match will be the third in succession that Rynhardt Elstadt will play on the flank, an indication perhaps that Coetzee is moving away from the line that the lock’s inclusion on the side of the scrum for the derby against the Bulls was a horses for courses selection. The Stormers have won the last two games so sticking with what works makes sense, and there can be no denying that Elstadt as a flank does add considerably to their depth of options at loose-forward.
When skipper Schalk Burger returns after the tour a call will have to be made as Siya Kolisi is also in outstanding form, but by then maybe the Stormers management will be ready to give one of the locks a rest, thus enabling Elstadt to return to the position where he excelled last year.
The Stormers management have ridiculed the speculation that Andries Bekker should be rested at this stage of the tour, and rightly so -- the Crusaders game is a big one for the Stormers as it represents a frontier they were unable to advance through in 2011, when they lost twice in Cape Town to the seven time champions.
DHL STORMERS: Joe Pietersen, Gerhard van den Heever, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff.
REPLACEMENTS: Deon Fourie, Frans Malherbe, De Kock Steenkamp, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Burton Francis, JP du Plessis/Gio Aplon.