DHL Stormers captain Schalk Burger is back at the helm of his team and is relishing the prospect of the physical battle that awaits him in the Super Rugby derby against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
Burger has been out since the opening competition match against the Lions with a knee injury. Although he has been training with the team again for the past couple of weeks, and could at a push have played against the Western Force last Saturday, this will be his first match contact in a while but, typically, he is not concerned about the prospect of the hard knocks that might await him.
“It is really good to be back after a break and I am looking forward to the game a lot,” said Burger at the Stormers team announcement on Wednesday.
“The Sharks always present a big physical challenge to us, and we have fresh memories of what happened to us on our last few visits to Durban, when we were out-muscled and outplayed physically in both the Currie Cup final and in the Super 14 league game. I may not be quite as sharp as I could be, but I am really looking forward to getting back.”
Burger ended the Currie Cup final with broken ribs courtesy of a heavy tackle from Willem Alberts, but he said that the settling of personal scores will not be a motivation for his men.
“What we have to do against the Sharks is the same as what we did against the Bulls. We need to stand up to them physically at the breakdowns and at the first phases early on and get into the game that way. It is a very similar challenge for us as the Loftus match. The Sharks only lost two matches on their overseas tour and they are in good form.
“Against a lesser defence than the Crusaders I reckon they would have won that match at Twickenham (last Sunday). There were a lot of aspects of their game that were right in that match. They have a really strong back-row and generally their pack works well together.”
Burger’s return for the injured Pieter Louw is one of two changes to the side that beat the Western Force 51-16 in Cape Town last weekend. As anticipated, the physical young lock Rynhardt Elstadt comes back as second row partner to Andries Bekker, with De Kock Steenkamp dropping to the bench where he replaces Anton van Zyl.
Also back in the squad this week is former Lions hooker Ethienne Reynecke, who comes in for Siyabonga Ntubeni.
Stormers team: Gio Aplon, Danie Poolman, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger (captain), Andries Bekker, Rynhardt Elstadt, Brok Harris, Deon Fourie, Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, CJ van der Linde, De Kock Steenkamp, Nick Koster, Ricky Januarie, Gary van Aswegen, Juan de Jongh.