Rassie Erasmus, head coach of the Vodacom Stormers, on Wednesday announced his team to play the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday 18 April. Kick-off is at 07h30 (SA time).
The coach made three changes to the side that lost to the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend. Two changes are to the pack, where Tiaan Liebenberg will be starting a game for the first time since rejoining the Stormers just before they departed on the overseas leg of their campaign.
He replaces Schalk Brits, who will be on the substitutes’ bench. Former Bulls and Springbok flank Hilton Lobberts gets a chance to show his worth when he will be running on for the first time for the Stormers in a Super 14 match. He takes over from veteran AJ Venter, who in the absence of Springbok Andries Bekker started the past few games.
Erasmus turned the former Paarl schoolboy star into a lock when he joined the Stormers at the end of last season. He introduced Lobberts gradually to his new position and feels the time is right to let the fiery forward loose.
Bekker has still not recovered sufficiently from the broken toe that prevented him from departing with his team-mates for Australia and would probably be ready for consideration for the last game next Friday against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Erasmus said Lobberts was very excited to be getting a start. “He is looking good on the training field. The story always was, or my deal with Hilton was that I would give him a chance if Adriaan gets injured.
“Now Adriaan is struggling with an injury, but he will be starting. AJ will ten to one replace him later in the game. But I always wanted to give Hilton a nice start, give him the warm-up with the team and not send him on as a substitute.
“He is very excited. I always told him I would give him a start at about the Hurricanes game. Now it has come true for him and he is excited about it and I think he is ready to give a good account of himself.”
At scrumhalf Springbok Ricky Januarie gets a breather on the bench and the promising Dewaldt Duvenhage will be starting. Erasmus said Duvenhage deserved a chance in the starting XV.
“Every time he went on he played well. Rick has started all the games and with Bolla’s injury he has probably played the most games. So Dewald deserves his chance. He played well thus far and we came close but just didn’t get the results.
“We didn’t really want to change but we are trying everything to get the win and Dewald has the potential to make an impact.”
There could be another change to the side, as props Brian Mujati and Wicus Blaauw are bracketed. Mujati last week left the field on a stretcher and if he is not fit Blaauw will be starting, with Brok Harris on the bench.
Harris has been out of action for a while due to an injury. Flank Pieter Louw is a new face on the substitutes’ bench. He takes the place of Francois Louw, who is back in Cape Town after sustaining a knee injury in training last week.
Erasmus was not too concerned that the two newcomers would battle to settle in. “One nice thing is that the Vodacom WP team and the Super 14 side use more or less the same calls. Both these players trained with us during the preseason and they are familiar with most of the things here.
“Peter trains with us since Monday, while Brok arrived here tonight. Nothing much has changed since last year, so I don’t foresee big problems.”
The Vodacom Stormers team is as follows:
15. Conrad Jantjes
14. Wylie Human
13. Gcobani Bobo
12. Jean De Villiers (C)
11. Sireli Naqelevuki
10. Peter Grant
9. Dewaldt Duvenage
8. Luke Watson
7 Duane Vermeulen
6. Schalk Burger
5. Adriaan Fondse
4. Hilton Lobberts
3. Brian Mujati / Wicus Blaauw
2. Tiaan Liebenberg
1. JD Moller
16. Schalk Brits
17. Brok Harris
18. AJ Venter
19. Pieter Louw
20. Ricky Januarie
21. Willem De Waal
22. Dylan Des Fountain