Cape Town – The weight of expectation should sit well on the shoulders of Ruan Botha who makes his starting line-up debut for the Stormers against the Chiefs in Hamilton, New Zealand on Friday.
The 22-year-old former Baby Bok lock who made his Super Rugby debut for the Lions in 2012 comes highly recommended by Stormers coach Allister Coetzee and captain Jean de Villiers.
“I'm very positive about Ruan because he's showed his class in the (line-out) department during training,” Coetzee said on Tuesday.
“It's not just his size but we know from our experience with Andries Bekker that his height will be an advantage.
“He'll have a feel for the big time because he played against the All Blacks in the under-21 World Cup final.”
After joining the Cape franchise in 2013, Botha suffered an early-season injury and he spent the rest of the year on the sidelines. He returned to action during the pre-season and Friday will be his first chance to show his real worth when he replaces injured Michael Rhodes in the second row.
De Villiers said he expects an improved line-out performance on Friday against the Chiefs.
“Ruan is taller than Rhodes and that will be an advantage but also an opportunity for him to do well,” he said.
“I didn't think the line-out was a problem last week because both sides managed to make steals.
“I have every confidence in our tight-five because we scrummed well against a quality Crusaders pack last week. The scrums can be a lottery because the ref sees it differently.”
De Villiers will be making his 100th Super Rugby appearance for the Stormers on Friday.
The other change to the team is at tighthead prop where Frans Malherbe is replaced by Brok Harris, who has over 80 caps for the Stormers.
“Brok brings lots of experience which will help our tight five to set up opportunities for us to strike from first-phase play,” said De Villiers.
Coetzee said Harris has been in the Stormers' system for a long time and he was comfortable with the tighthead packing down the front row on Friday.
“We are giving Frans as much time as possible to recover from his injury and we'll do an assessment at the Captain's Run on Thursday to ascertain if he's ready to play,” said Coetzee.
There is good news on the condition of Rhodes who is nursing a shoulder injury, and which at first seemed like a tour-ending fracture.
“Rhodes has made good progress and we're waiting for the pain to settle in his shoulder,” said Coetzee.
“If all goes well, we think he'll be available next week.”
Meanwhile Springbok centre Juan de Jongh is recovering well from a knee injury and is on standby to join the Stormers in Australia next week.
Stormers team: Jaco Taute, Kobus van Wyk, Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian de Allende, Gio Aplon, Demetri Catrakilis, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Deon Fourie, De Kock Steenkamp, Ruan Botha, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, Oliver Kebble, Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Peter Grant, Sailosi Tagicakibau. – Sapa