Two-change Stormers are without Duane
Allister Coetzee confirmed what most people watching his Stormers team train on Wednesday morning already knew for themselves -- his team will be tackling the Sharks in Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby semifinal at Newlands without Duane Vermeulen.
The coach has made two changes to the side that beat the Rebels in their last league match 12 days ago, with Eben Etzebeth coming in at lock for De Kock Steenkamp, while Brok Harris makes his anticipated return at tighthead prop in the place of Frans Malherbe.
But the big talking point since the Rebels game has been the status of No 8 Vermeulen, who has missed out through injury since April. He made a few appearances in training over the past few days and Coetzee, although he didn’t want to look beyond Saturday, said there was a good chance he would be fit for a final should the Stormers get there.
In the end though Coetzee decided that this was a case where discretion is the much better part of valour, and after Deon Fourie’s man of the match performance against the Rebels, he has no qualms about playing the hooker at the back of the scrum.
“Deon and Duane bring something different from each other, they are very different players, but we have confidence in Deon as this is a chance for him to show his versatility against a very mobile Sharks pack,” said Coetzee.
“I said earlier in the week that Duane had improved, and he had. But I thought about it and just felt in the end that it was too much of a risk to play him when he isn’t completely ready. He is improving all the time and there is a possibility he could be available after this, but we are not thinking further than this semifinal. This is a big game against a very good Sharks team and if we don’t win it there won’t be any matches after this one.”
Coetzee, knowing how important physicality will be against the Sharks, welcomed the return of Springbok lock Etzebeth.
“Eben was actually ready for the Rebels game but De Kock Steenkamp was playing well and we felt we could continue with him against the Rebels. It will serve to motivate Eben to play even harder to know that even though he is a Springbok, he needs to retain the form that made him a Springbok in order to play for the Stormers.
“When it comes to Brok Harris, we know we are up against an international class front-row on Saturday. Frans Malherbe has been given game time and as a young player that has been great for his development. But where he has contributed best for us this year has been when he has come on late in the game, as he did when we beat the Sharks in the first round game here in February.”
Stormers team: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (capt), Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Deon Fourie, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Frans Malherbe, Deon Carstens, De Kock Steenkamp, Don Armand, Louis Schreuder, Burton Francis, Gerhard van den Heever.