Cape Town — The Stormers have received a major shot in the arm with the return of Ruhan Nel to the starting line-up for Sunday’s Champions Cup encounter against London Irish in the UK capital (3pm SA time kick-off).
Outside centre Nel has been out of action for the last few weeks after sustaining a calf injury against London Irish in December.
That has resulted in Dan du Plessis and Suleiman Hartzenberg filling in at No 13, which is a difficult position to defend in and has caused some disruption to the Stormers’ alignment without the ball.
Du Plessis is restored to his regular inside centre spot and Hartzenberg has been shifted to right wing, with Angelo Davids moving to the left for the injured Leolin Zas in the team named by coach John Dobson on Friday.
So, Nel’s comeback is at just the right time for the Capetonians, as his experience and organisational skills in defence in particular will be vital against a speedy London Irish backline.
Du Plessis’ change in position results in Damian Willemse moving to fullback for Clayton Blommetjies, and the Springbok star will bring much-needed composure, a big boot and attacking prowess from the last line of defence as well at the Brentford Community Stadium in London on Sunday.
There are two further changes in the pack, with Junior Pokomela getting a welcome start at blindside flank after playing off the bench for most of the season, with Willie Engelbrecht moving the other way to the replacements.
Junior Springbok lock Connor Evans will receive his first Stormers start as well, with Ben-Jason Dixon getting a bit of a breather on the bench after a heavy workload in recent weeks.
Another young second-rower, Simon Miller, could make his Stormers debut off the bench, where prop Ali Vermaak and hooker Andre-Hugo Venter will look to make an impact in the second half.
Junior Bok captain Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer are back from their respective injury lay-offs and will cover a number of positions in the backline.
15 Damian Willemse 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg 13 Ruhan Nel 12 Dan du Plessis 11 Angelo Davids 10 Manie Libbok 9 Paul de Wet 8 Hacjivah Dayimani 7 Junior Pokomela 6 Deon Fourie 5 Marvin Orie 4 Connor Evans 3 Neethling Fouche 2 Joseph Dweba 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Bench: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter 17 Ali Vermaak 18 Brok Harris 19 Simon Miller 20 Ben-Jason Dixon 21 Willie Engelbrecht 22 Stefan Ungerer 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.