Siya Kolisi will start at No 8 against the Lions while Don Armand and Tyrone Holmes have been selected on the Stormers’ flanks.
It is expected that Kolisi will occupy this position until one of the Stormers’ more experienced loose forwards (Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster) return from injury. Canadian international Jebb Sinclair was previously preferred at No 8, although the fact that he is ineligible for the Super Rugby play-offs has prompted coach Allister Coetzee to move Kolisi to the back of the scrum.
‘He has played there before at school level, and as a footballer he is certainly suited to the position,’ said Coetzee. ‘He’s developed well as a ball-carrying No 7 in the past year or so, and has really done a good job for us at No 6 since Schalk got injured.
‘I don’t want to say when those guys [Burger, Vermeulen and Koster] will be back. At the moment we expect them to start training in the week of the Rebels match [Round 18]. But in the mean time, we want a guy like Siya to get used to the position.’
Armand replaces Rynhardt Elstadt, who has been suspended for one match after receiving his third yellow card of the season in the previous game against the Bulls. Holmes comes into the team for his first Super Rugby cap as Kolisi moves to No 8.
‘Don has been part of our whole campaign, he joined us on the overseas tour and provides exactly what we want in that No 7 position: a big ball-carrier. He’s also a good lineout option,’ said Coetzee.
‘He’s come through the club rugby system and played in the Varsity Cup, so it’s a great chance for him. Tyrone is also somebody who has a big opportunity. He’s done well in the Vodacom Cup, and this will give me a chance to see what he can do.’
Meanwhile, Coetzee has opted to start Gerhard van den Heever on the left wing and play Bryan Habana from the bench. Steven Kitshoff, whose heavy workload this season has included a starring role for the Baby Boks in the Junior World Championship, is rested.
Eben Etzebeth is nursing an ankle injury and won’t be risked. This allows De Kock Steenkamp to come into the second row and start alongside Springbok Andries Bekker, who returns from a back injury.
The Lions are lying last in the South African conference, and the players recently moved to suspend the head coach John Mitchell. Coetzee said that the Stormers would not underestimate them.
‘We are expecting a big challenge, and the new selections are not because we are taking the Lions lightly. We are in a good position now [on the Super Rugby log], so we are looking to make this opportunity count.’
Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Siya Kolisi, 7 Don Armand, 6 Tyrone Holmes, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Deon Carstens.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Quinn Roux, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schrueder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Bryan Habana.
By Jon Cardinelli