Cape Town – The Stormers will welcome back all their available Springboks for Friday’s blockbuster United Rugby Championship showdown against Leinster, with Damian Willemse starting at inside centre in Dublin (9.35pm SA time kickoff).
Coach John Dobson named his strongest possible match-23 on Thursday, which sees Willemse in the No 12 and the in-form Clayton Blommetjies continuing at fullback.
The Capetonians will field lethal backline that have all the ingredients to mount a real challenge against the Irish giants at the RDS Arena, with Paul de Wet and Manie Libbok the halfbacks, Dan du Plessis shifting to outside centre – with Ruhan Nel on paternity leave – and Junior Springbok Suleiman Hartzenberg at right wing and Seabelo Senatla on the left.
The Stormers have been significantly strengthened upfront as well. Bok stalwarts Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe will spearhead the scrum alongside another Test player in hooker Joseph Dweba, while lineout master Marvin Orie returns to partner Ruben van Heerden in the second row.
With Evan Roos still out injured, Hacjivah Dayimani – who made his own comeback from injury for Western Province in last week’s Currie Cup win over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld – starts at No 8 in a well-balanced loose trio, where Deon Fourie and Ben-Jason Dixon will do the hard yards on the flanks.
As usual, Dobson has gone for a six-two bench split in favour of the forwards, with Herschel Jantjies and Jean-Luc du Plessis covering the backline.
“It is great to have these Boks back in the mix this week, and we are looking forward to seeing what they bring in what will be a tough game away from home,” Dobson said on Thursday.
“It has been some time since some of these players featured for us, so hopefully the game-time will stand them all in good stead as we head towards the end of the season.”
Stormers team: 15 Clayton Blommetjies 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg 13 Dan du Plessis 12 Damian Willemse 11 Seabelo Senatla 10 Manie Libbok 9 Paul de Wet 8 Hacjivah Dayimani 7 Ben-Jason Dixon 6 Deon Fourie 5 Marvin Orie 4 Ruben van Heerden 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Joseph Dweba 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Bench: 16 JJ Kotze 17 Brok Harris 18 Neethling Fouché 19 Ernst van Rhyn 20 Willie Engelbrecht 21 Marcel Theunissen 22 Herschel Jantjies 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis.