Canadian Test loose forward Jebb Sinclair has been drafted into the Stormers squad and will play off the bench against the Cheetahs this Saturday.
Coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday that plans to bring Francois Louw to Cape Town had failed, but promised that the search for another experienced loose forward would continue.
The Stormers have struggled with injuries in the loose forward department, and desperately needed somebody to offset the losses of Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster.
Coetzee revealed that it was initially hoped that both Sinclair and Louw would join the Stormers, but he is nevertheless happy to have secured Sinclair’s services for the remainder of the Super Rugby league stage.
Sinclair won’t be available for the play-offs, as the tournament rules stipulate that players need to have registered with a team before 1 April in order to be eligible for knockout games.
The 1.93m, 111kg forward will travel back to Canada to play for the Canucks during the June Test window, and then link up with the Stormers again for their three remaining league matches. By this time, players like Koster and Burger should also be back from injury.
‘We’ve lost two No 8 options, and I wanted to find an experienced replacement,’ said Coetzee when asked why he didn’t promote one of the Vodacom Cup players. ‘I had to look around and I’m happy that Jebb is the kind of guy that will do a good job.
‘That has always been the issue, we were always looking for an experienced No 8 once we knew Duane and Nick would be unavailable. Nizaam Carr has done a good job but he is still inexperienced, and there is a tough set of matches coming up, we want to be well covered.
‘A guy like Nick Fenton-Wells has played No 8 in the Vodacom Cup, but at Super Rugby level you need more of a specialist, and Jebb has also played rugby at the highest level.’
Apart from playing 25 Tests for Canada, the 25-year-old loose forward has enjoyed a stint at English club London Irish.
Sinclair arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday morning, and will wear the No 19 jersey in Saturday’s match against the Cheetahs. Coetzee doesn’t believe Sinclair will struggle to adapt to the Stormers’ structures in such a short time.
‘It’s been done before. We did it a couple of seasons ago when Matt Toomua joined us a couple of days before a Currie Cup game. Tamati Ellison also did it earlier in the season when he played for the Highlanders a couple of days after returning from Japan.’
Meanwhile, Eben Etzebeth’s return could be the most timely ahead of physical clash against the Cheetahs.
Etzebeth missed the Stormers’ last tour fixture against the Force with a shoulder injury, but has recovered sufficiently to take his place in the second row for this weekend’s encounter. His return is certain to provide the Stormers pack with more clout, and that lock combination does look more balanced with Etzebeth partnering a specialist No 5 like Andries Bekker.
Other changes to the forwards see Deon Fourie coming in for Tiaan Liebenberg at hooker as Coetzee looks to rotate some players. Brok Harris replaces tighthead Frans Malherbe, who started against the Force two weeks ago.
In the backs, Jean de Villiers has overcome a wrist injury to take his place at No 12 and lead the side. His return sees Juan de Jongh shifting one position out to No 13 and Bryan Habana moving back to the wing. Gio Aplon is also back from injury and will replace Gerhard van den Heever.
Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
By Jon Cardinelli