CAPE TOWN - If you want an indication of just how seriously Robbie Fleck is taking their game against the Jaguares on Saturday (kick-off 7.40 pm SA time), you need only look at his selections for the Buenos Aires contest.
All of the Stormers’ Springboks who took part in the Boks’ 2-1 series win over England will play a role in their second-last Super Rugby game of the season, as they can no longer qualify for the play-offs after winning only five of their 14 games this year. Captain Siya Kolisi – despite having played a taxing amount of rugby until now – will start at No 6 alongside fellow Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit, who will start at blindside flank, and Sikhumbuzo Notshe at No 8.
Du Toit – a standout performer at both Super Rugby and Test level this season – of course captained the Springboks in Washington in their 22-20 defeat against Wales, and his workload and the management thereof, just like Kolisi’s, is something Bok coach Rassie Erasmus will surely want to keep an eye on. On the bench, Nizaam Carr, who is set to join Wasps after the Super Rugby season, and Kobus van Dyk will provide cover.
Given the fact that there is still a lot of Test rugby to be played this year, in terms of workload, it might have been good to give the likes of Kolisi and Du Toit a rest, especially seeing that the Stormers’ season is over. Someone like Junior Boks captain Salmaan Moerat could have been given a starting chance at No 4 lock, while Notshe, Van Dyk and Carr could have done duty in the loose trio, which would have opened a spot on the bench for Wiese, who can cover loose forward and lock. Even a stint off the bench for Du Toit would have alleviated some game-time pressure.
In the front row, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, having been sidelined with injury for the first 13 games of the season, will get his first Super Rugby start in 2018 after coming off the bench in their loss to the Lions before the international break. On either side of Mbonambi, tighthead prop Wilco Louw and Steven Kitshoff will fill out the Stormers’all-Springbok front row, while Ramone Samuels, JC Janse van Rensburg and Frans Malherbe will feature off the bench.
In the backline, scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage will form the halfback pairing with Jean-Luc du Plessis, while Damian de Allende and JJ Engelbrecht take charge in midfield. And out wide, Dillyn Leyds, Craig Barry and Raymond Rhule will run on, while Justin Phillips and EW Viljoen will add backline cover.
While performing away has been an issue for Fleck’s team this year, he said that they’re looking forward to getting a positive result away. “We know that it will be a big challenge here in Argentina, but both the players and management are looking forward to it,” Fleck said. “We want to show that we are capable of performing under pressure away from home and will be going all out to come away with a win.”
Stormers team: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Jan de Klerk, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Kobus van Dyk, 22 Justin Phillips, 23 EW Viljoen.