Deon Fourie will start at No 8 when the Stormers battle the Rebels on Saturday.
Coach Allister Coetzee told this website on Monday that the Stormers’ request to include Jebb Sinclair in the play-offs has been denied by Sanzar. The laws states that players signed after the 1 April cutoff are not eligible for the knockout stages, and despite the fact that the Stormers are thin in the position of No 8, Sanzar refuses to grant them special dispensation.
What this means is that the Stormers will need to plan for the upcoming play-offs. Sinclair aside, they are unlikely to have Schalk Burger and Nick Koster back from injury.
There is a slim chance that Duane Vermeulen will recover in time to feature in the semi-finals, and his availability will be made public following a visit to a knee specialist on Monday. There is of course a strong chance that Vermeulen won’t be fit, and that the Stormers will need to make do with the players currently at their disposal.
Siya Kolisi has already been used at No 8 this season, but Coetzee feels that the flanker should play in his favourite position of openside. Fourie has already played No 7 this season, and Coetzee feels that the versatile forward could play an influential role at No 8.
‘We have to look at other options now that Jebb won’t be available,’ said Coetzee. ‘It’s was also a case of getting our best players on the field. Deon has been one of our strongest performers but Tiaan [Liebenberg] is also one of our best.
‘We have tried Siya at No 8, but I feel that Siya and Rynhardt Elstadt have formed a strong combination on the flanks. We have to try this new combination now [with Fourie at No 8] before we get to the play-offs.’
Fourie may be a specialist hooker, but has shown himself to be a prolific fetcher. He may not be the biggest player and won’t be able to play a ball-carrying/lineout role like Sinclair or Vermeulen, but Coetzee is hoping to harness Fourie’s fetching strengths.
‘Eight and six are similar in that regard, he will be the first off the scrum and the first [to break] from the lineout, so we will want to use that to good effect. He’s got the speed and the attitude to be a force in that position.’
With Fourie and Liebenberg both in the starting side, Coetzee has opted to include two props on the bench. While Fourie will start in the back row, he will provide hooker cover for Liebenberg.
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 Deon Fourie, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Quinn Roux, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schrueder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
By Jon Cardinelli