Aplon in but big Liebenberg blow
There was good news and bad news for DHL Stormers supporters on Wednesday morning as the team for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Crusaders was named at an early morning press conference at Newlands.
The positive news was the fact that Springbok utility back Gio Aplon has been cleared to play, although he will continue to be closely monitored as he makes a step by step comeback to the training field over the next few days.
“Gio was in the gym yesterday and at the captain’s practice on Friday he will participate fully but I am not sure how much of a role he will play in training today (Wednesday). But he will definitely play against the Crusaders,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.
The bad news though is particularly negative if you consider that the Stormers already have loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff out this week because of suspension. The man down is hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, regarded as an important cog in the scrumming machine, and it gets worse – Liebenberg won’t be playing again until after the Stormers’ overseas tour.
“Tiaan has torn elbow ligaments and will be out until after we have toured, so that is a problem for us,” said Coetzee.
“Fortunately Scarra Ntubeni is on his way back, and he will be ready to play in three weeks.”
Deon Fourie, the man who captained Western Province to the Currie Cup title last season, replaces Liebenberg in the front-row, with former Lions Springbok Pat Cilliers slotting in on his left shoulder as loosehead.
“Deon did play for us in the first two games of the season so it’s not like he is a new player, and the same with Pat,” said the coach.
What Coetzee neglected to mention though and wouldn’t want to remind people is that the Stormers came off second best at lineout and scrum time in those games. Martin Bezuidenhout comes back into the match day squad as the back-up hooker.
“Obviously from a continuity viewpoint, because we won last week against the Brumbies, it’s not good to be making changes, particularly when it comes to the scrum,” agreed Coetzee.
The Crusaders have had the better of the Stormers in the past in the scrumming battle and Coetzee also has a high regard for their lineout.
“They don’t make many mistakes in their lineout and it is not like we are going to have many opportunities to take ball off them. But the players coming in know they have a responsibility and we have spoken to them and I am confident they will do a good job for us.”
DHL Stormers team: Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Gerhard van den Heever, Elton Jantjies, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Pat Cilliers.
Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Brok Harris, Don Armand, Nizaam Carr, Nic Groom, Damian de Allende, Jaco Taute.