You would hardly have expected the name of spring chicken Jurie Mathee, who’s only 23-years-old, to make his debut for the Cape side against the experience of Springbok World Cup hero Handre Pollard.
But that will be the case on Sunday (kickoff 5:15 pm) looking at the flyhalf duel with two other World Cup winners for the Stormers, Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse, back home, and the versatile Jean-Luc du Plessis filling in at centre.
Du Plessis recently played as the flyhalf in the United Rugby Championship, but with the Stormers having a bit of a centre crisis, he will have to settle at 12 with another promising youngster, Suleiman Hartzenberg, as the outside centre.
With the untested halfback centre pairing, the Stormers will look to the back trio of fullback Clayton Blommetjies and former Premiership wingers Courtnall Skosan (Northampton) and Ben Loader (London Irish) to drive their attack.
It’s upfront, though, where the hard work awaits the visitors.
They will have to contain the likes of Springbok eighth man Jasper Wiese, former Junior Springbok captain Hanro Liebenberg at loose forward, fellow South African prop Francois van Wyk, Argentine international hooker Juan Pablo Montoya, Welsh loosie Tommy Reffell, and England tight head Dan Cole in the Leicester pack.
So it is up front where the young Stormers will have to stand their ground, and head coach John Dobson agreed when he was asked where they have to contain the English club side.
Dobson also added that had circumstances been different with scheduling and traveling, he would’ve definitely selected his strongest side.
But with the short turnaround and the trans-continental travel, putting his more senior players through the long journey to Europe via Qatar and six days later returning home to play the champions La Rochelle forced his hand to leave them at home.
“When we play Stade Francais in January, we will not be doing this, we will be selecting our strongest team, it doesn't matter where we are in the competition,” Dobson said.
“We will have a seven-day turnaround, and we can hop straight to Paris. It is such a privilege for us to be in this tournament, and to suggest we are undermining it (by picking a second-string side) is a bit exaggerated.
Our hand was forced
“I don’t think anybody will mind going into their domestic competition on a six or seven-day turnaround. But in this competition, a six-day turnaround, in our case via Qatar, just forced our hand.
“So we have to look at scheduling, and the easy way will be for them to say we will give you a seven or eight-day turnaround. We don’t want this, and I would assume EPCR (governing body of the Champions Cup) does not want this to continue.”
On the field, Dobson is confident his troops will take the fight to Leicester in search of a victory. But if the youngsters can’t pull it off, he wants to see them grab a point or two from the game.
Losing bonus points on the road could be vital in their search for a home playoff match this time around. In last season’s competition, the Stormers had an away fixture and they lost to Premiership side Exeter at Sandy Park.