Cape Town — Following Manie Libbok’s concussion, young flyhalf Kade Wolhuter has been handed the No 10 jersey by Stormers coach John Dobson for Saturday’s Champions Cup clash against Clermont Auvergne.
Libbok left the field in the first half of last Sunday’s 28-14 victory over London Irish at the Brentford Community Stadium, and did not return after being tackled by opposition fullback Ben Loader.
French referee Ludovic Cayre issued a straight red card to Loader for making direct contact to Libbok’s head, and the Bok pivot failed his immediate concussion test on the pitch.
Dobson said on Thursday that Libbok has passed his subsequent tests and should be available for selection for next Friday’s United Rugby Championship showdown with Ulster in Belfast, but now Wolhuter will run the Stormers attack against Clermont at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (7.30pm kickoff).
The 21-year-old had been sidelined for about a year with a knee ligament injury, but made a good impression when he started against the Scarlets in November.
Wolhuter slotted five out of six shots at goal as well in the 36-19 victory at Cape Town Stadium on that occasion, and now gets an opportunity to build on that performance in what will be a big step up against a highly motivated Clermont side that fired coach Jono Gibbes at the weekend.
Springbok star Damian Willemse will continue at fullback in the team announced on Friday, while Stefan Ungerer will wear the No 9 jersey as Paul de Wet is sidelined with concussion as well.
The other change is at blindside flank, where Willie Engelbrecht comes in for Junior Pokomela, who is also out with concussion.
URC star Evan Roos is fit again after recovering from a rib injury sustained on Springbok duty against England in November, but Dobson opted to play him off the bench in his return to action, with Hacjivah Dayimani still at No 8.
Bok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies is back from his rib problem too and will be among the replacements.
A few changes to the bench – which reverts back to a more traditional five-three split between forwards and backs – sees JJ Kotze at hooker for Andre-Hugo Venter, Roos for Simon Miller and Jean-Luc du Plessis as the specialist flyhalf cover.
“This has all the makings of a Champions Cup classic, with a place in the play-offs at stake and we want to do it justice,” Dobson said on Friday.
“Three concussions in one week poses a bit of a challenge for us, but we are keen to see what impact the players coming in can make.
“We are also obviously delighted to have players of the calibre of Herschel, Evan, JJ and Jean-Luc back in the mix off the bench, so there is a lot to look forward to on Saturday night.”
15 Damian Willemse 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg 13 Ruhan Nel 12 Dan du Plessis 11 Angelo Davids 10 Kade Wolhuter 9 Stefan Ungerer 8 Hacjivah Dayimani 7 Willie Engelbrecht 6 Deon Fourie 5 Marvin Orie 4 Connor Evans 3 Neethling Fouche 2 Joseph Dweba 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Bench: 16 JJ Kotze 17 Ali Vermaak 18 Brok Harris 19 Ben-Jason Dixon 20 Evan Roos 21 Herschel Jantjies 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.