Cape Town - Juan de Jongh and Sailosi Tagicakibau will team up in a new midfield combination for the Stormers in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Bulls at Newlands, and the inclusion of SA Sevens dynamo Seabelo Senatla on the bench promises an explosive finish to the derby.
“Seabelo has shown at national sevens that he’s a very exciting young player,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said of the 21-year-old Super Rugby rookie. “The man is really quick, and we’re all excited to see him.”
Welkom-born Senatla, a product of the Cheetahs’ junior structures, is on track to make his Super Rugby debut after Kobus van Wyk was ruled out with a four-week calf injury suffered during training earlier this week.
“It’s a major excitement for me to be here playing for the Stormers this weekend,” Senatla, pictured, told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s a different kind of ball-game, but it’s still a rugby ball, so I’m very excited to be playing at this level of the 15-man game.”
His integration into the extended version of the game has been made easier by a few familiar faces in former SA Sevens standouts Cheslin Kolbe and Gio Aplon who will bookend the Stormers backline this week.
“It’s awesome playing with players of that calibre,” added Senatla.
“I’ve played with Cheslin before at Sevens, he’s a very good player, and Gio Aplon as well.
“The guys are very mobile, man. I love playing with guys who have a certain type of mind of playing, coming from Sevens they have a certain skill-set and it’s great to link up.”
Senatla will have few opportunities to turn out for the Stormers over the next two seasons as he is contracted to the SA Sevens team until the end of 2016, but he has plans to make a permanent switch at that point in order to pursue his dream of playing for the Springboks.
Jet-like acceleration, blazing pace and a desire to get across the line saw Senatla lead South Africa with 29 tries during the 2013/2014 IRB Sevens World Series, and the Stormers are hoping for more of the same from the second he steps on to Newlands.
Coetzee made three personnel changes to the side that ran on for a 21-19 win against the Sharks in Durban at the end of May, with Aplon, Schalk Burger and Deon Fourie returning from injury to line up on the right wing, blindside flank and rake respectively, while veteran Tiaan Liebenberg is back from a long-term lay-off to cover hooker from the bench.
Burger has assumed the captaincy from battle-weary Duane Vermeulen who will undergo a fitness test on Friday - if the No 8 is not cleared to play, Siya Kolisi will start and lock Jean Kleyn will be promoted to the replacements.
As expected, De Jongh and Tagicakibau will line up in the Stormers’ sixth centre partnership of the season.
“It’s a great challenge for both of them,” added Coetzee. “It’s the first time they’re playing together. Juan is a guy that likes to get the ball early and Sailosi has got some good attributes - good distribution skills and defensively he’s strong, - solets see how it goes against (the Bulls’) Springbok pairing.”
Meanwhile, Bulls hooker Bongi Mbonambi, 23, has been linked with a move to the Stormers in the wake of Adriaan Strauss’ reported intention to move from the Cheetahs to Pretoria.
The Stormers and Cheetahs are believed to be Mbonambi’s preferred landings.