More bad news for the Stormers in New Zealand
The Stormers suffered more bad news on the injury front when emerging star flank Cobus Wiese failed to pass a fitness test for Friday’s clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The 20-year-old had a massive game against the Crusaders last week‚ where he made 11 tackles‚ one line break and carried for 84 metres‚ mostly in close quarters.
But he was unable to shake off a shoulder injury in time.
The Stormers had already lost influential lock JD Schickerling for the match while Bok hard man Pieter-Steph du Toit has been bracketed on the bench with flyhalf George Whitehead after taking a heavy knock during the 45-28 loss to the Crusaders.
He is still going through concussion protocols.
Lock Salman Moerat is set for his Stormers debut off the bench‚ having flown to New Zealand as Schickerling’s replacement.
In all‚ coach Robbie Fleck has made five changes to the starting lineup for another tough test of the team’s character and skill.
“Cobus was our man of the match against the Crusaders‚” Fleck said.
“For a 20-year-old to deliver a performance like that in New Zealand is unbelievable. He stuck his hand up as a potential Springbok.”
The only change to the backline sees Dillyn Leyds move back to wing to make way for the returning Damian Willemse‚ with Seabelo Senatla ruled out due to a groin strain and JJ Engelbrecht providing cover among the replacements.
Up front Kobus van Dyk will start at blindside flank in Wiese’s absence.
There is an all-new lock pairing in Jan de Klerk and Chris van Zyl.
The only change to the front row sees Steven Kitshoff back in the starting XV‚ with JC Janse van Rensburg on the replacements bench.
“We back whoever comes into the squad regardless of their experience‚” Fleck said about Moerat.
“We have backed youngsters such as Damian Willemse last year and Steven Kitshoff a few years ago.
“Salman is good enough‚ he is mature in his outlook and his game is improving all the time. He has a lot of ambition and wants to become better.
“Obviously losing two top locks is not ideal but you have to get on with it.
"Last week’s performance from the forwards was outstanding‚ and we expect the young guys to step up again.”
With all the injury enforced changes the Stormers’ chances of ending nine-match losing streak in New Zealand against a quality Highlanders outfit‚ is slim.
But Fleck remained upbeat‚ preferring to focus on the final hour of the match against the Crusaders‚ which the Stormers shaded 28-19.
“The Highlanders are different to the Crusaders.
"We had to go through the middle against the Crusaders and we got good reward for that in that final hour‚” Fleck said.
“But the Highlanders posed different threats and challenges and they would have taken notice of our changes as well.
“They have a strong tactical kicking game by turning the opposition with little tactical kicks in behind.
"They also have a superb contestable kicking game with Ben Smith one of the best in the world in the air.
“We will have to get numbers around the ball and the guys going into the air to secure possession which was something we didn’t do against the Waratahs a few weeks ago.”
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger has made four changes from the team that beat the Blues two weeks ago.
In the forwards‚ Tasman loosie Shannon Frizzel takes his place on the reserves bench‚ while co-captain Ash Dixon will miss the game with a back injury and will be replaced by Greg Pleasants-Tate.
In the backs‚ powerful Fijian winger Tevita Nabura earns a spot on the left wing and Josh Renton comes on to the bench. It is a debut game for both Frizzel and Nabura.
“The Stormers are a big side so we expect a physical encounter‚ they are also a dangerous team with ball in hand in open spaces‚ so we are well aware of those threats and have prepared to meet those challenges‚” Mauger said.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain)‚ 14 Waisake Naholo‚ 13 Rob Thompson‚ 12 Teihorangi Walden‚ 11 Tevita Nabura‚ 10 Lima Sopoaga‚ 9 Aaron Smith‚ 8 Luke Whitelock‚ 7 Dillon Hunt‚ 6 Liam Squire‚ 5 Tom Franklin‚ 4 Jackson Hemopo‚ 3 Siate Tokolahi‚ 2 Liam Coltman‚ 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate‚ 17 Aki Seiuli‚ 18 Tyrel Lomaz‚ 19 Shannon Frizzel‚ 20 Elliot Dixon‚ 21 Josh Renton‚ 22 Fletcher Smith‚ 23 Matt Faddes.
Stormers: 15 SP Marais‚ 14 Dillyn Leyds‚ 13 EW Viljoen‚ 12 Damian de Allende‚ 11 Raymond Rhule‚ 10 Damian Willemse‚ 9 Dewaldt Duvenage‚ 8 Nizaam Carr‚ 7 Kobus van Dyk‚ 6 Siya Kolisi (captain)‚ 5 Chris van Zyl‚ 4 Jan de Klerk‚ 3 Wilco Louw‚ 2 Ramone Samuels‚ 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir‚ 17 JC Janse van Rensburg‚ 18 Carlu Sadie‚ 19 Salmaan Moerat‚ 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit (George Whitehead)‚ 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe‚ 22 Justin Phillips‚ 23 JJ Engelbrecht.