Vodacom Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus made several changes – two of them injury-enforced – to his side for Saturday’s crunch Super 14 mach against the Brumbies at Newlands.
Two stars, flank Schalk Burger and hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, suffered knee injuries in the victory over the Highlanders the past Saturday that ruled them out of the rest of the competition.
Erasmus on Wednesday made a positional switch to accommodate Luke Watson at flank, with Robbie Diack promoted from the substitutes’ bench to the starting XV. Diack will be starting at No 8, with the promising Pieter Myburgh on the bench.
Schalk Brits, who had been in scintillating form thus far this season, returns to the starting line-up after having to make way for Liebenberg last Saturday. The exciting Vodacom WP hooker Deon Fourie will be his deputy on the bench.
Former Cheetahs and Lions star Wylie Human will be making his Stormers debut at wing in place of Dylan Des Fountain. Des Fountain started last week in place of the injured Tonderai Chavhanga, but has been demoted to the bench.
A “new” halfback combination will be taking the field in Enrico Januarie and Peter Grant, who both sat on the bench last weekend when Bolla Conradie and Tony Brown got a start.
Former All Black flyhalf Brown played only 20 minutes though due to a rib injury. He has recovered sufficiently and Erasmus picked him on the bench. Conradie also reverts back to the reserves.
Grant sat out training this week due to a wrist injury, but the coach was happy that he would be fighting fit for the Brumbies challenge. Prop Brian Mujati has also been selected after taking time out from injury this week due to foot trouble.
Lock Adriaan Fondse will also get a start after warming the bench against the Highlanders. He takes over from Ross Skeate as Andries Bekker’s second-row partner.
Brok Harris will be making his first start of the season at tighthead prop. He replaces Schalk Ferreira, who is one of the reserves.
“The injuries are freakish and are occurring from collisions. Every team in this competition has to absorb five or six injuries at some stage or another,” commented Erasmus about the sudden glut of injuries that already saw Tonderai Chavhanga and JD Moller sidelined.
Erasmus, however, remains optimistic. “It is nice and challenging for me, because this is the ultimate Super 14. Last year the competition was played without 22 All Blacks in the mix for the first seven rounds.
“Just take for instance Schalk (Burger) and now Tiaan being out and imagine the Crusaders and Hurricanes without seven of their All Blacks and the effect that would have.
“It’s tough losing players, but Naka (Drotske, of the Cheetahs) and Loffie (Eloff, of the Lions) have also had a tough run and as we go into the closing rounds it gets tougher and does not make life easier,” he said.
Vodacom Stormers team: Conrad Jantjes; Wylie Human, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (capt), Sireli Naqelevuki; Peter Grant, Ricky Januarie; Robbie Diack, Francois Louw, Luke Watson, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brok Harris, Schalk Brits, Brian Mujati. Substitutes: Deon Fourie, Schalk Ferreira, Ross Skeate, Pieter Myburgh, Bolla Conradie, Tony Brown, Dylan Des Fountain.