In a timely boost for franchise and country, Bongi Mbonambi has recovered from injury and will start for the Stormers in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Sunwolves at Newlands.
Mbonambi sustained a quad injury in the 19-19 draw with the Crusaders a few weeks ago, and missed the 41-22 loss to the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Springbok hooker will scrum down alongside Frans Malherbe, who also returns at No 3, and captain Steven Kitshoff against the Japanese outfit (5.15pm kickoff).
There is another familiar face back in the pack, with the experienced Chris van Zyl shoring up the lock crisis after his lengthy layoff with a back problem, with Eben Etzebeth out with a broken hand.
But bad news on the injury front sees Damian Willemse missing out on the rest of the season with a knee injury.
The Bok utility back is expected to be ready for the Test season, though, which starts on 20 July against the Wallabies.
Seabelo Senatla won’t be running on to Newlands either due to concussion, so Dillyn Leyds shifts to fullback and Edwill van der Merwe will make his Super Rugby debut at wing, where he will be joined by Craig Barry.
The injury crisis was further deepened by Sikhumbuzo Notshe being sidelined for the remaining weeks of the tournament with an ankle problem.
So, a new-look loose trio sees Jaco Coetzee at No 8, and Johan du Toit and Ernst van Rhyn on the flanks – with Pieter-Steph du Toit out with a shoulder injury.
Bok centre Damian de Allende is being rested, which gives Dan Kriel a start at No 12, while Jean-Luc du Plessis has been handed the flyhalf berth ahead of Josh Stander.
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Bench: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Josh Stander, 23 EW Viljoen.@ashfakmohamed