Cape Town – The Stormers have been dealt a blow by the injury-enforced absence of hooker Deon Fourie ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby clash against the Sharks in Cape Town.
Fourie was forced to leave the field with a hamstring strain in last weekend's match against the Bulls at Newlands and was declared unfit on Wednesday morning.
In recent weeks, Fourie had been Super Rugby's leading exponent of turn-overs and he imposed himself massively on breakdown play last week.
The promotion of hooker Tiaan Liebenberg into the run-on XV was the only change to the Stormers side which was named on Wednesday at Newlands.
Liebenberg offered greater scrummaging power which would be crucial considering the Stormers were going up against an all-Springbok front row.
Several first-choicers were playing their last match for the franchise this week as Pat Cilliers, Deon Fourie, Gio Aplon and Schalk Burger had all signed contracts to play abroad.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee paid tribute to the players who were leaving but said it was creating opportunities for younger players to establish themselves at the Newlands-based franchise.
“We are losing players who have contributed massively to the game in this province,” he said.
“When you consider how many Super Rugby caps these players have collectively you'll realise what a big void they've created. But it is a good opportunity for new players to stake their claims.”
Coetzee said the union was aware that stalwart players could be lured elsewhere and had been preparing for the exodus.
“For some time now players have been earmarked to fill roles when we lose players.
“We'll miss experience but we've seen how nicely players like Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt Coleman have come through and they're similar to the talents we're losing.
“It is good to be in a situation where we are not running around trying to find players to fill in for the injured guys.”
Injuries continued to weaken the Stormers and the lack of suitable talent had, at times, forced the franchise to look abroad for replacements.
Coetzee pointed to the role Sailosi Tagicakibau, on loan from London Irish, had played for the Stormers.
“We really miss centres like Damian de Allende and Jean de Villiers but then Sailosi has been an ideal fit.
“He has the size, experience and physicality and has fitted in nicely, much like Jebb Sinclair (London Irish) last season.”
Sentimentality would not overshadow the team's primary objectives, he said.
“Performance will be the priority because we will be remembered by what we've done when we start the next competition (Currie Cup),” said Coetzee.
“We want to maintain the performance levels as we go into the future.”
Stormers team: Jaco Taute, Gio Aplon, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Juan de Jongh, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger (captain), Nizaam Carr, Ruan Botha, Michael Rhodes, Pat Cilliers, Tiaan Liebenberg, Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: Stefan Coetzee, Sti Sithole, Martin Dreyer, Manuel Carizza, Siya Kolisi, Louis Schreuder, Peter Grant, Seabelo Senatla. – Sapa