Stormers lose Willemse for remainder of Super Rugby
CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is eyeing eight log points from their remaining Super Rugby games against the Sunwolves and Sharks.
The Stormers are at the foot of the South African conference heading into their Newlands fixture against the Japanese outfit tomorrow (5.15pm kickoff). And while Fleck said a “bonus point would help”, he wasn’t too ambitious in hoping that they would claim maximum points in their remaining regular-season outings. While the Stormers can definitely still make the playoffs, that task would certainly have been easier had they had a full-strength team available.
Fleck has made eight changes for the Sunwolves game after Damian Willemse was also added to their ever-growing injury list.
Willemse (knee), Eben Etzebeth (hand) and Sikhumbuzo Notshe have added to Fleck’s injury problems, while Damian de Allende will be rested for tomorrow’s encounter.
The injured trio joined Seabelo Senatla (concussed), captain Siya Kolisi (knee), Pieter-Steph du Toit (shoulder) and Kobus van Dyk on the sidelines.
“Damian Willemse is not going to be available for the remainder of our campaign. You’re looking at about a month out,” Fleck confirmed. “Eben is six weeks, and Notshe is out for between four and six weeks, he injured his ankle at the weekend.”
Edwill van der Merwe, David Meihuizen and Chris Massyn will make their Super Rugby debuts tomorrow, while Craig Barry comes in for Senatla on the right wing. Dan Kriel takes over from De Allende at inside centre.
Van der Merwe will start on the left wing, with Dillyn Leyds shifting to fullback in the absence of Willemse, while Jean-Luc du Plessis comes in for the benched Josh Stander.
Up front, openside flank Ernst van Rhyn comes into the loose trio with Jaco Coetzee moving to No 8.
Chris van Zyl has been brought in to partner Cobus Wiese in the second row, while in the front row Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi replace Wilco Louw and Scarra Ntubeni respectively.
One positive was the return of Van Zyl.
“From a mental point of view Bongi brings a lot of confidence to the group. We’re expecting the set-pieces to go a lot better this weekend. Last week wasn’t ideal; we had two flanks playing lock. Chris makes a massive difference in terms of calling the lineouts, so he makes a welcome return,” Fleck said.
“We’re taking it week by week and what’s important is that we win this game. If we win both we have a great chance at qualifying ... even up to sixth position.
The Stormers team is:
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 (c).
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Josh Stander, 23 EW Viljoen.@WynonaLouw