DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has kept the changes to a minimum for Friday’s Super Rugby clash against the Blues at North Harbour Stadium in Albany (kick-off 09h35 SA time).
Coetzee has made three changes to the starting line-up that did duty against the Hurricanes last week – as the DHL Stormers kicked-off their tour with an 18-16 win – whilst fit-again Springboks Eben Etzebeth and Elton Jantjies will be re-introduced via the bench.
Lock Etzebeth will make his first appearance of the 2013 Super Rugby season from the bench, after recovering from a pre-season ankle injury, whilst Jantjies returns to the fray after missing two games (Sharks and ‘Canes) with a knee injury.
Frans Malherbe will start at tighthead prop in one of the three changes to the Stormers starting XV, with Rynhardt Elstadt shifting from No.6 to No.7 (in the absence of Michael Rhodes). Siya Kolisi, a late withdrawal from the team last week, comes back at No.6 in the third change.
Prop Brok Harris and scrumhalf Nic Groom drop out of the matchday squad altogether this week, with Pat Cilliers reverting to the bench.
The Blues have plenty of dangermen in their side – both up front and out wide – and coach Coetzee is expecting a tough game on Friday as the DHL Stormers look to make it two from two on tour.
“Rene Ranger and Francis Saili have been in good form in the Blues backline. But (captain) Jean de Villiers is an experienced campaigner, Juan de Jongh and Bryan Habana understand that this will be a big challenge and they have to be up for it,” he said.
“We’re expecting a tough, physical battle and that is what we’re preparing for,” added Coetzee.
“It’s going to be really confrontational and I think the collisions are going to be the key areas for us in the game. Flank (Steven) Luatua has also been playing really well for the Blues – he has a high work-rate and gets around the field and is also a good ball-carrier.”
The DHL Stormers team to take on the Blues is as follows:
15. Joe Pietersen
14. Gio Aplon
13. Juan de Jongh
12. Jean de Villiers (captain)
11. Bryan Habana
10. Gary van Aswegen
9. Dewaldt Duvenage
8. Duane Vermeulen (vice-captain)
7. Rynhardt Elstadt
6. Siya Kolisi
5. Andries Bekker
4. De Kock Steenkamp
3. Frans Malherbe
2. Deon Fourie
1. Steven Kitshoff
16. Scarra Ntubeni
17. Pat Cilliers
18. Eben Etzebeth
19. Nizaam Carr
20. Louis Schreuder
21. Elton Jantjies
22. Damian de Allende
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)