CAPE TOWN – Stormers and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi will be forced to soldier on this week against the Reds due to Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit returning home.
The tourists are currently feeling the effects of two hard-fought contests against New Zealand opposition with three players being forced struck down by injury.
Lock JD Schickerling made his way back last week already due to a shoulder ailment, and has now been followed by fellow second-rower Etzebeth and centre Dan du Plessis.
To compound matters, the influential Du Toit has joined his teammates on the flight back to be at the birth of his son.
Under the Springboks’ collective player management plan that seeks to balance the workload of key individuals in a World Cup year, Kolisi is fast approaching his threshold and should be in line for a rest fairly soon.
But with the Stormers suddenly without the services of a couple senior Boks in their forward pack, the skipper’s experience is going to be vital if Robbie Fleck’s team are going to turnaround their fortunes in Australia.
“Siya told us immediately after the Blues match that he wants to keep playing because we are losing a bit of experience. As the captain, he wants to make sure he keeps the team and the pack together,” Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman told the media from Brisbane on Monday morning.
Reinforcements have been summoned with Johan du Toit, Ernst van Rhyn and former Blitzbok superstar Seabelo Senatla all joining the touring party.
Senatla was unlucky to miss out initially, and will be champing at the bit to get stuck in straight away.
It is most likely that fellow former Blitzbok Ruhan Nel will slot straight into Du Plessis’ outside centre berth, but Senatla’s extra speed is certainly an asset after the Stormers wings were outpaced in the wide channels in New Zealand.
“We know what Seabelo brings in terms of his pace and X-factor,” Snyman said.
“He has played for us before, and it will be exciting if we can get a guy like Senatla in space. Defensively, he has also defended against the best players in the world a big space, so he knows how to handle himself one-on-one.”
Blues v Stormers| Super Rugby 2019 Rd 7 Highlights— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) March 30, 2019
The @BluesRugbyTeam make it three straight wins after overcoming @THESTORMERS late in the contest to score a tough 24-9 victory over the visitors at Eden Park.#SuperRugby #BLUvSTO pic.twitter.com/gsONJq2l86
Senatla’s arrival Down Under provides Fleck with further options to shuffle his backline around.
Dillyn Leyds and Damian Willemse were both superb at left wing and fullback respectively against the Blues, but they could potentially offer the Stormers even more.
Willemse needs to be the shot-caller at flyhalf at the expense of Jean-Luc du Plessis, with Leyds slotting in back at fullback and Senatla on the left wing.
It does not seem that the Stormers are ready for such a shift just yet, though, and will remain patient with their under-performing pivot.
“I feel we had to pay a bit of rent with Jean-Luc. He was out for a long time last year and didn’t play rugby. He started off slowly this season, but he has come on in tour,” Snyman added.