CAPE TOWN – The Stormers will have a new flyhalf in place in the shape of Jean-Luc du Plessis for Saturday’s vital Super Rugby showdown with the Sunwolves in Hong Kong.
First-choice pivot Damian Willemse joined the Junior Springbok camp on Sunday ahead of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in France, which starts on May 30 and ends on June 17.
That means the 20-year-old will miss both the Sunwolves and Lions games over the next two weeks before the June Tests.
Willemse’s absence comes at a critical time for the Stormers, who have to win all four remaining league matches against the Sunwolves (Hong Kong), Lions (Newlands), Jaguares (in Buenos Aires on June 30) and the Sharks at Newlands on July 7 after a 15-9 defeat to the Chiefs on Saturday.
They are currently last in the South African Conference and 11th on the overall Super Rugby log, and need to get into the last wildcard position of eighth or win their Conference to advance to the playoffs.
They will need to gain bonus-point victories in most, if not all, of their last four matches and hope that the Lions, Jaguares, Bulls and Sharks drop points as well, with the last three teams all enjoying a game in hand over the Cape side and having one extra log point (24 to the Stormers’ 23).
In announcing their touring squad on Sunday, lock Jan de Klerk, centre EW Viljoen and prop Carlü Sadie were added to the 23-man group that faced the Chiefs, except for Willemse.
“This is another first for the Stormers, and something that all of the players and management are really looking forward to,” coach Robbie Fleck said in a statement about the historic clash at the Mong Kok Stadium on Saturday (7.15am SA time kickoff).
“Our matches against the Sunwolves in Singapore have been tough encounters, so we know that we are in for a real test once again.”
Stormers Tour Squad
Nizaam Carr, Damian de Allende, Jan de Klerk, Paul de Wet, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dewaldt Duvenage, JJ Engelbrecht, JC Janse van Rensburg, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, SP Marais, Scarra Ntubeni, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Raymond Rhule, Carlü Sadie, Ramone Samuels, Seabelo Senatla, Kobus van Dyk, Chris van Zyl, EW Viljoen, Cobus Wiese.