A break in Stormers flu cloud
The flu cloud hanging over the Stormers appears to have at last lifted ahead of Saturday’s crucial Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Bryan Habana and Joe Pietersen missed last week’s match against the Lions because of the ailment, and on Monday it was confirmed that centre Juan de Jongh was confined to bed. However the cloud lifted on Tuesday when De Jongh, who was heading back to his best form against the Lions, reported for training along with Habana. Pietersen was already back in training on Monday.
That is good news for the Stormers as it means coach Allister Coetzee can select a full-strength backline for the Vodacom Park match, a game which could secure the Stormers the South African conference title with one match still to play should they win it.
The news at forward isn’t all bad either, and the pack that the Stormers management will announce at a press conference at the High Performance Centre later on Wednesday should have a stronger and more experienced look to it than the one that struggled a bit in some areas against the Lions.
The key is the expected reconfiguration of the back row, with Rynhardt Elstadt returning at blindside flank to add the physicality that was lacking last time. Coetzee hinted on Monday that he will return Siya Kolisi to openside flank after he played No 8 against the Lions, with Jebb Sinclair coming back into the starting team.
That is the most experienced loose forward combination available to the Stormers and it makes sense to take that route against a Cheetahs team that has a strong back row.
In addition to the changes to the loose-forwards, it is anticipated that Coetzee will call up bruiser Quinn Roux for his first start in Super Rugby at lock in place of De Kock Steenkamp. This is another selection that makes sense and strengthens the side as Roux is more in the mould of the missing Eben Etzebeth than Steenkamp is and can help Elstadt inject more physicality and greater momentum in the battle fo the gainline.
With Frans Malherbe also over the flu that impacted negatively on his performance against the Lions and Tiaan Liebenberg, who is good at taking the ball up, expected to return as the starting hooker, the Stormers pack looks well equipped to make good the shortfalls of last week.
Probable Stormers team: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Jebb Sinclair, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, Quinn Roux, Frans Malherbe, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Deon Carstens, De Kock Steenkamp, Don Armand, Louis Schreuder, Burton Francis, Gerhard van den Heever/JP du Plessis.