Cape Town – The dreaded injury curse has forced the Stormers into making 12 changes to their match-day squad which will do duty in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Bulls at Loftus.
Centre and captain Jean de Villiers, wing Kobus van Wyk, lock Michael Rhodes, Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff, both props, have all been sidelined by injuries, while Ruan Botha has been moved from number four to number five lock.
On the substitutes’ bench, six newcomers in hooker Stephan Coetzee, Alistair Vermaak, Martin Dreyer (both props), scrumhalf Dylon Frylinck, centre Michael van der Spuy and wing Devon Williams have been called up from the Vodacom Cup ranks to provide cover.
However, the Stormers stand-in captain Schalk Burger said the team would rely on these substitutes to provide more than just cover.
“When you’re playing on the Highveld, you tend to bring your subs sooner into the game,” Burger said on Wednesday in Bellville.
“The Highveld atmosphere takes so much more out of players and you have to use your bench. With all the injuries we’ve had, it is not ideal but it is important that the subs know the detail.”
On Wednesday morning, Rhodes, Malherbe and prop Oliver Kebble failed fitness tests to add to the Stormers’ woes.
“Oli took a knock on the head at training on Monday and he did come through a concussion test this morning,” said coach Allister Coetzee.
“Malherbe passed an onfield concussion test last Saturday but he had symptoms which made it necessary for him to be tested again. He didn’t make it, and Rhodes’ shoulder injury still needs recovery time.
“With so many players out, it has been a challenging week because we’ve had to look at opportunities for youngsters to play against one of the toughest sides, and at one of the toughest venues.”
Botha has been entrusted with marshalling the Stormers line-out and his positional change was made to accommodate debutant lock Jean Kleyn, who suffered an ankle injury in a pre-season game.
“Kleyn will be up against Victor Matfield so he knows he’ll be in for a big test but we have confidence in him.
“He’s coming back from a long injury lay-off so we don’t expect 80 minutes from him. He hits the rucks well and gets through loads of donkey work.
“Ruan has called the line-outs before and he can rely on senior players like Burger and Duane Vermeulen to help with directing that set-piece.”
Coetzee said he did not feel that the players were affected by all the disruptions as a result of injury.
“It says a lot about our leadership that the players won't give up even with all the disruptions.
“This morning I sensed lots of positivity and energy at training. There is still a lot of experience in the side and players who are coming into the side, like Peter Grant, bring a calmness to our game.”
Grant, usually flyhalf, has been slotted in at centre to plug the gap left by De Villiers’ absence. Kurt Coleman has been impressive at flyhalf and has been retained in the pivot position.
Stormers team: Jaco Taute, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Peter Grant, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger (captain), Nizaam Carr, Ruan Botha, Jean Kleyn, Pat Cilliers, Siyabonga Ntubeni and Brok Harris
Substitutes: Stephan Coetzee, Alistair Vermaak, Martin Dreyer, Siya Kolisi, Deon Fourie, Dylon Frylinck, Michael van der Spuy, Devon Williams. – Sapa