Eben Etzebeth and Schalk Burger have both been named in the DHL Stormers’ 23-man squad for Saturday’s all-South African Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Sharks at DHL Newlands (kick-off 19h10).
Etzebeth picked up a chest injury during pre-season action in late January and will make his first competitive appearance for the DHL Stormers since July 2013, whilst Burger, named on the bench, is back in the selection mix after returning from his club rugby commitments in Japan.
Powerhouse lock Etzebeth comes in for the injured Jurie van Vuuren (shoulder) in the No.4 jersey, whilst Argentine international Manuel Carizza moves up from the bench to replace Ruan Botha (minor concussion) in the No.5 shirt.
In other changes to the starting XV, Siya Kolisi comes in at No.7 for his first start of 2015 in place of the hard-working Mike Rhodes, who suffered a bang to the knee during last week’s dramatic 22-19 away win over the Lions, whilst Scarra Ntubeni starts at hooker in place of Bongi Mbonambi, an 11th hour withdrawal after sustaining a shoulder injury at training.
Burger thus moves onto the bench following Kolisi’s promotion to the starting XV, with the former joined amongst the replacements by Alistair Vermaak (in for Oli Kebble) and a fit-again Jean Kleyn, the new lock replacement following Carizza’s elevation to the No.5 jersey, and uncapped hooker Neil Rautenbach (in place of Ntubeni, who is now starting).
Looking ahead to this weekend’s clash, the DHL Stormers’ third SA Derby in four weeks, coach Allister Coetzee told www.iamastormer.com: “First and foremost, it’s great to be back home at DHL Newlands, where we will be for the next two weeks before our bye-week and tour.
“For us, it’s all about improving on last week’s performance against the Lions, as we were unhappy with a lot of things that came out of the match,” he added.
“We’re expecting a ferocious onslaught from a powerful and experienced Sharks team, who were unlucky to lose away last weekend. We’re certainly not reading anything into that defeat to the Bulls, in fact, we know that will only make the Sharks more dangerous.”
Whilst the loss – to injury – of Rhodes, Botha and Van Vuuren are disappointing in such a big week, Coetzee lauded the return of Springboks Etzebeth and Burger.
“It’s always good to bring back players like Eben and Schalk who understand the culture of the DHL Stormers and who boast big-game experience,” said the DHL Stormers boss.
“They are short on recent game time for us, but their presence is a big boost for us – especially in light of the injuries to Mike, Ruan and Jurie.”
* Match tickets, priced between R80 and R140, can still be purchased ahead of Saturday’s big game at DHL Newlands – either online, at wprugby.computicket.com, or from Computicket outlets and Shoprite & Checkers stores nationwide.
The DHL Stormers team to face the Sharks (home) is as follows:
15. Cheslin Kolbe
14. Johnny Kotze
13. Juan de Jongh (vice-captain)
12. Damian de Allende
11. Dillyn Leyds
10. Demetri Catrakilis
9. Nic Groom
8. Duane Vermeulen (captain)
7. Siya Kolisi
6. Nizaam Carr
5. Manuel Carizza
4. Eben Etzebeth
3. Vincent Koch
2. Scarra Ntubeni
1. Steven Kitshoff
16. Neil Rautenbach (On Super Rugby debut for the DHL Stormers)
17. Alistair Vermaak
18. Frans Malherbe
19. Jean Kleyn
20. Schalk Burger
21. Louis Schreuder
22. Kurt Coleman
23. Huw Jones
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)