Head coach Allister Coetzee on Wednesday announced the DHL Stormers team for Friday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Hurricanes.
Coetzee made just three changes to the starting XV that did duty against the Sharks two weeks ago, but fit-again forwards Scarra Ntubeni and Rynhardt Elstadt give the coach plenty of options from the bench.
Said Coetzee: “Mike (Rhodes) has settled in nicely (in the team). Continuity is important, especially on tour, so that made it easy for us to keep Mike in the mix at No.7.
“Rynhardt will cover lock and flank and he will definitely play his part from the bench and, of course, Mike can also cover at lock. I think both our locks have played all the games up till now, so we need to look at giving Kockie or Andries a breather where possible.”
The DHL Stormers are on a two-match winning streak against the Hurricanes and lead their overall head-to-head statistics by 8-6, but the Capetonians are very mindful of the threat posed by the team that scored the most tries in in the league phase of the 2012 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
“The Hurricanes have a quality set of backs, with a few very good steppers and a settled centre combination of Conrad Smith and Tim Bateman,” said the DHL Stormers boss.
“Our defence will be tested – this is a good Hurricanes side. They feed off turnover possession – just look at some of the tries they’ve scored. We simply can’t afford to make silly mistakes and have to be composed with ball in hand. As soon as you turn over possession, they will punish you.
“This is a massively important game for us – it’s our first on tour and we want to start on positive and winning note, but it will not easy.”
Captain Jean de Villiers, meanwhile, welcomed back his long-time Springbok teammate Bryan Habana, the latter having made a strong recovery from a knee injury which he sustained on March 9.
In typical De Villiers fashion, however, the Stormers skipper joked via a Wednesday-morning teleconference: “Bryan’s still a bit rusty… I’m not sure if his fitness is quite there yet. I’m just joking… Bryan’s sitting next to me in the room as I’m talking to you!
“Seriously though, it’s always great to get back a player of his quality – obviously it will help a lot with the decision-making on the field as well. It takes a bit off pressure off me, having another senior player back, and hopefully that’s the last injury he will get in a DHL Stormers jersey.
“Bryan’s a prolific try-scorer and he’s massive in that regard for us too,” added De Villiers. “He’s massive for us, in many ways, and the opposition keeping an eye on him can hopefully open things up for those around him too.”
The DHL Stormers will travel to Palmerston North (the venue for Friday’s match) on Thursday late morning and will have their captain’s run there. They will return to their current base in Auckland on Saturday morning (all NZ time).