Rynhardt Elstadt has failed a late fitness test and will be replaced by Eben Etzebeth for the Stormers’ first Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes.
Earlier this week, the Stormers were confident that Elstadt would recover from an ankle injury to take his place in the second row. But following further testing it’s been decided that the No 4 lock won’t be risked. He will however be ready to play against the Sharks next week.
This leaves the Stormers without an established enforcer option, and coach Allister Coetzee has decided to hand Etzebeth the responsibility in his very first Super Rugby match.
‘Eben is an out-and-out No 4 lock,’ said Coetzee when asked to explain why a more seasoned second rower like De Kock Steenkamp wasn’t preferred. ‘Yes he is a youngster and often youngsters make mistakes, but he has great potential and I have no doubt that he is ready to make the step up at Super Rugby level.’
As reported on Monday, Juan de Jongh will not feature because of a jaw injury. Bryan Habana will partner Jean de Villiers in midfield, and this move opens up a space for Gerhard van den Heever on the wing.
Gary van Aswegen will start at flyhalf in the absence of Peter Grant, who is still playing rugby in Japan, and will be joined by Dewaldt Duvenage in the halfbacks.
Nick Koster will start at No 8 despite the return of regular eighthman Duane Vermeulen. Vermeulen will play blindside flank.
Coetzee added that Deon Carstens, who was recruited from Saracens in the off-season, wasn’t considered because of a lack of game time at tighthead prop. Coetzee feels that the Stormers have the right front row balance in Steven Kitshoff, Brok Harris and reserve prop Frans Malherbe at this stage of the season.
Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Bryan Habana, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Louis Schrueder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Marcel Brache.