DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 26, Steven Kitshoff during the Super Rugby match between The Sharks and DHL Stormers from Mr Price Kings Park on May 26, 2012 in Durban, South Africa Photo by Steve Haag / Gallo Images

Zelim Nel

Rugby Writer

STORMERS prop Steven Kitshoff has been forced to withdraw from this week’s vital Super 15 showdown against the Bulls in Pretoria.

According to reliable sources, SA Rugby has instructed certain players selected to represent South Africa at the IRB Junior World Championship, which kicks off in Cape Town on June 4, to report for duty.

This comes as a big blow to the SA conference-leaders who have just five days to repair a scrum that was comprehensively beaten by the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Kitshoff has started 12 consecutive matches this season and will likely be replaced by veteran Deon Carstens.

Meanwhile, a handful of Stormers will spend today goofing around with their Bulls counterparts in Durban, but fun will turn to fury when the teams fight for keeps in Pretoria on Saturday night.

Just in case the desire to impress Bok coach Heyneke Meyer a week before the June Test window opens wasn’t enough to stoke the fires of a searing South African derby, first place in the conference is also at stake.

The Stormers must bounce back from what was, in performance terms, an emphatic loss against the Sharks to avoid surrendering their two-point lead over the Bulls.

The importance of winning in Pretoria is magnified by the wildcard of a Super Rugby competition that will, for the first time, break to allow international Tests to be played.

None of the franchises have ever had to deal with the demands that a mid-season Test series will place on their leading players.

The fact that the Stormers have sent just seven players to the final Bok camp leaves them less exposed to the risk of wear and tear, but a win at Loftus this week will nonetheless provide some invaluable insurance against potential injuries.