Rassie Erasmus, head coach of the Vodacom Stormers, on Wednesday announced his team to play the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday 24 April. Kick-off is at 09h35 (SA time).
The coach made a number of changes to the side that went down to the Hurricanes in Wellington last week – mostly due to injuries. Captain Jean de Villiers and lock Adriaan Fondse left the touring party earlier this week.
De Villiers’ absence led to a number of changes to the backline, with Willem de Waal coming in at flyhalf in place of Peter Grant, who shifts one position out to inside centre.
Dylan des Fountain, who played well and scored the Stormers’ only try when he replaced De Villiers last weekend, starts at outside centre. That caused Erasmus to move Gcobani Bobo, who recovered from a knee injury he sustained against the Canes, to wing in place of Wylie Human.
The Stormers will be starting with two “new” locks this weekend. Andries Bekker is back from injury and will be forming a second row combination with AJ Venter. Hilton Lobberts, who started against the Hurricanes, is on the substitutes’ bench.
Brock Harris, who played 40 minutes last week after replacing Wicus Blaauw at tighthead, will start this weekend.
Two interesting new faces on the substitutes’ bench will be centre Morgan Newman and Ikeys utility back Tiger Bax, who joined the team earlier this week.
Erasmus said he doesn’t want to say too much about the injury situation that depleted his playing personnel because he doesn’t want to give people the idea he was looking for excuses.
The former Springbok loose-forward tried to put a philosophical spin on things: “It is just one of those things and we have to deal with it. We have injuries but it provides the other players with the opportunity to show what they are made of.
“Andries was an automatic choice and so were the loose-forwards. Brock gets a start after playing 40 minutes last weekend and Willem also gets a chance at 10 after Jean’s injury that forced us to play Bash (Grant) at centre. Most of the changes are a result of injuries.”
The coach said losing his captain was bad, but not the end of the world. “We had a whole lot of injuries this season and we have lost Jean in games before. It is bad but Skalla (Schalk Burger) is keeping the guys together nicely. We trained well this week and we are excited about the prospects of this weekend.”
Erasmus said last week’s performance against the Hurricanes produced some positives too. “Dylan took his chances well when he came on and he played well under difficult circumstances.
“A guy like Wicus also did well at tighthead in a difficult game. Dewaldt also grabbed his opportunity under difficult circumstances. We just couldn’t get in their half too often to attack and had very few scrums and lineouts in their half.
“But we worked hard on those shortcomings this past week and hopefully we can get it right on Saturday.”
The Vodacom Stormers team is as follows:
15. Conrad Jantjes
14. Gcobani Bobo
13. Dylan Des Fountain
12. Peter Grant
11. Sireli Naqelevuki
10. Willem De Waal
9. Dewaldt Duvenage
8. Luke Watson
7 Duane Vermeulen
6. Schalk Burger (C)
5. Andries Bekker
4. AJ Venter
3. Brock Harris
2. Tiaan Liebenberg
1. JD Moller
16. Schalk Brits
17. Wicus Blaauw
18. Hilton Lobberts
19. Pieter Louw
20. Ricky Januarie
21. Morgan Newman
22. Liam Bax