Cape Town – The Stormers have turned to Deon Fourie and Brok Harris as their go-to players to bolster their pack for the Super Rugby semi-final against the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.
Loose forward Duane Vermeulen has not recovered sufficiently from his knee injury which is a massive blow for the Stormers, who will have to match the Sharks upfront if they want to give themselves a chance of winning the all-South African derby.
“Duane is not ready for the game and, although he has made great progress, his (fitness) condition has not kicked on,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.
“It's not the right thing to play him in a high-intensity game at this stage. I believe in fielding players only if they are 100
“Deon has been good on the ground and he's shown that he's a hard worker.
It's another opportunity for him to show his versatility.
“The loose forwards understand their roles and the selection was based on what's best for the team.”
Fourie, the Stormers' hooker, will be playing at No 8 again and performed with distinction in that position against the Rebels two weeks ago when he earned the 'Man-of-the-Match' award.
The Stormers have not been too impressive in the front row and tighthead Frans Malherbe has made way for the seasoned Harris, in an effort to stabilise the scrum.
“We're up against a top-class pack full of internationals and we're going with Brok for this match,” said Coetzee.
“We've given Frans time to advance his development but Brok has played in play-off before and we're looking for impact when Frans comes on.”
Coetzee said they were expecting the Sharks to exert their authority at the set-pieces and were preparing accordingly.
“The Sharks have all their big players back and they're the ones that they rely on for momentum,” he said.
“They have made a massive step-up in physicality and that creates go-forward for them to impose themselves on the match.”
As expected Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth returns to the second row alongside Andries Bekker and that in itself will be a huge morale-booster for the Stormers.
“Players like De Kock Steenkamp who have played while we had injuries have done really well and hopefully Etzebeth will be inspired by their (the replacements) performances,” said Coetzee.
“It's good to have Etzebeth back and we know how well he can perform.”
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said the travel factor could be a consideration for the Sharks but he expected them to be so motivated that it was unlikely to affect their performance.
“Travelling will always be factor but they're highly motivated and after their win against the champs (the Reds) last week, they'll arrive at Newlands on a high,” said De Villiers.”
“The Sharks have quality players and their problem is who to leave out.
“The key for us is to concentrate on what we need to do and win the mini-battles in the big battle.
“If we don't pitch up this week, there won't be a next week (final).” – Sapa